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Wacker Plant Explosion Released Trace Amounts of Hydrochloric Acid Vapor

An explosion at an East Tennessee chemical plant released trace amounts of hydrochloric acid into the air, and eight people with symptoms related to the incident were treated at a nearby hospital.

On Thursday, Charleston, Tennessee residents reported hearing an earth-shaking explosion and seeing a white plume of vapor coming from the Wacker Polysilicon plant, which produces raw materials for solar cells and electronics. Bradley County officials initially described the situation as extreme—an extraordinary threat to life and property.

Roads were closed, and residents were told to stay indoors and turn off air conditioners.

Officials initially reported no injuries, but a nearby hospital later said eight people were treated: one, a firefighter suffering from heat exhaustion; the other seven for unspecified symptoms.

Wacker says the chemical release was fully contained yesterday.

Last week, a different chemical release injured five Wacker employees. Officials say that incident is unrelated to this week’s.

Wacker is investigating the conditions which led to Thursday’s incident.