For the past several weeks, workers at HAPCO on Hillman Highway in Abingdon have complained that an odor has been blowing into the plant, making them sick. “Seems like it just creeps up on you,“ says employee Tim Grubb, “and you really don’t notice it until it’s about got its full effect on you.“ Workers say it is a perfume type of smell that is just overpowering. “Leaves a taste in my mouth,“ says Ralph Kiser.
HAPCO believes the odor is coming from nearby MXI. But MXI says they weren’t even operating this morning, when 56 HAPCO employees complained of the smell. Brian Potter of MXI doesn’t deny an odor coming from his plant, but says there is a “high likelihood” that whatever is causing the sickness is not coming from MXI. HAPCO shut down its operations for two hours this morning to let employees recover from what they described as the worst odor yet.
The Department of Environmental Quality is working with both plants to find the problem, and the solution. They have sent letters to MXI, requesting they us the best available control technology. MXI says they are looking into helping solve the problem, even though they aren’t convinced they are the cause. They are trying an odor masking agent to see if it helps.
HAPCO says the safety of their employees is the main concern. “People having to breathe it,“ says Kiser, “and they say they get dizzy headed, and you know, they’re welding, running saws, and presses and stuff like that, it’s real dangerous.“ But they also say when they have to stop production, it could hit them in the wallet as well. “We can lose customers,“ says employee Jason Cook, “if it doesn’t meet the due dates, it gets the whole plant behind.“