It has been 10 days since a fire and explosion shattered the early morning calm in Union County. That was when the JNS Biodiesel plan on Highway 15 just north of New Albany caught fire, which led to a series of big and small explosions that continued into the next day.
Fire and emergency management officials decided to let the fire burn itself out because of the danger of more explosions from tanks of dangerous chemicals on the site. As bad as the fire and explosions were, they could have been much worse.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but now that the smoke has cleared, we have a couple of thoughts:
First, it was only by luck and the grace of God that people were not hurt or killed in the fire and explosions. The plant is very near a heavily traveled highway and several homes.
Second, most Union County residents were not even aware the plant was there or the potential safety hazards posed by such a plant.
All of this leaves us more than a little nervous. We’re not confident Union County has the checks and balances in place necessary to protect the citizenry and their property while encouraging responsible business and industry development.
We think the county needs to take whatever steps necessary to establish regulations for property use that provide large buffer areas between such plants and nearby development.Construction of such plants on small parcels should not be permitted.
And last, we don’t think under any circumstances this plant should be rebuilt at its current location. It poses health and safety hazards to both Union County and New Albany residents that far exceed any potential benefit to the local economy.