THE DALLES, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are monitoring air quality at the AmeriTies West railroad tie treatment plant in The Dalles after diesel sludge and residue caught fire in a tank Thursday night.
The tank normally contains a solution of 99 percent diesel and one percent copper naphthenate. Crews had cleaned the tank of that solution earlier Thursday, though some amount of diesel sludge and sawdust remained in the tank and later caught fire, officials said.
Vapors inside the tank heated and expanded, causing an explosion inside the tank about 30 minutes after the fire started around 8 p.m. Thursday. The cause of the fire is still being investigated, DEQ said late Friday.
Air quality monitors installed early Friday afternoon are monitoring for particulate matter and volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.
People who breathed the smoke from the fire may have experienced coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, and/or irritation of the eyes, nose, or throat, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
People over 65 and people with pre-existing heart conditions who breathed the smoke may be at increased risk of cardiovascular events for up to 24 hours after the smoke has cleared. Examples of cardiovascular events are coronary syndrome, arrhythmia, heart failure, stroke, and sudden cardiac death.
People with asthma or other pre-existing respiratory diseases who breathed the smoke may have experienced worsened symptoms during the smoke event.
Anyone struggling to breathe or experiencing signs of a cardiac event should seek emergency medical assistance. Signs of cardiac events include:
• Heart palpitations
• Shortness of breath
• Chest tightness or pain in the chest, neck or shoulder
OHA also recommends contacting your health care provider if less severe respiratory symptoms persist after the smoke has cleared. OHA does not expect that anyone will experience long-term health effects as a result of this short-term smoke exposure. The greatest concern is acute respiratory and heart effects while the smoke was present and the day after it has cleared.
DEQ said AmeriTies West is a more than century-old railroad tie treatment plant located at 100 Tie Plant Road.