Wacker closing Charleston, Tenn., plant, possibly for 'several months'

Wacker closing Charleston, Tenn., plant, possibly for 'several months'

Investigation of explosion continues

September 20th, 2017 by Staff Report in Breaking News

Clouds billow from the Wacker polysilicon chemical plant after an explosion released a hydrogen chemical gas on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, in Charleston, Tenn. The explosion closed the plant, but a statement from Wacker says air quality was unaffected.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Gallery: Explosion at Wacker is second incident within 8 days

more photos

Wacker Polysilicon announced Tuesday it is closing its Charleston, Tenn., plant, possibly for "several months," as the investigation into the cause of a Sept. 7 explosion continues.

In a news release, Wacker officials said an equipment malfunction led to a hydrogen explosion at the plant and damaged piping leaked chlorosilane, a chemical that creates hydrogen chloride as it comes into contact with moisture in the air.

"Thanks to the immediate action of all response teams involved, there was no risk to the community," the statement reads.

It was the second incident in eight days at the plant. Five workers suffered chemical burns Aug. 30 in a different area of the plant.

A plant worker, a firefighter, four deputies and seven local residents were treated at hospitals after the Sept. 7 explosion.

Tobias Brandis, Wacker global president, said it could take several months to restart production.

"While we are working diligently towards resuming production, the safety of our employees and the community is our top priority," he said. "Therefore, production will not start until a thorough inspection is completed and it is certain that the facility is safe."

The $2.5 billion plant that manufactures chemicals for solar panels said financial effects on Wacker stemming from the explosion are expected to be minor.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating the incidents.

This story was updated Sept. 20 at 11:59 p.m.