Helena Chemical Co. investigated for possible toxic chemicals stored in Forward warehouse
Federal and municipal officials are investigating a business that might have stored toxic chemicals in a Butler County warehouse in amounts several times what's legally allowed, sickening workers at other businesses that share the building.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Forward officials are investigating Helena Chemical Co.'s storage site on Evans City Road, officials said on Wednesday. They declined to give details. An operations manager at Helena's regional office in New Jersey said he could not comment.
The chemicals, including fertilizers and pesticides, caused eye and respiratory problems for workers from other companies that use the building, said Pasquale Verona, who owns one of the companies. A consultant for the building's owner reported seeing smoke come out of Helena's offices and toward the other offices, according to documents Verona sent on Monday in a complaint to OSHA.
“The fact is (there's) all this damning evidence,” said Verona, 77, of Houston in Washington County. He is the CEO of Wiz Biz Solutions Inc., which operates out of the building. “I and other people in this building have been damaged, and they're just saying forget about that.”
Verona's son Michael owns Marcellus Gasfield Services LLC, which bought the building last year, Pasquale Verona said. Father and son are business partners, and about 135 of their employees are based in the building. Helena is a tenant.
Helena and Marcellus Gasfield Services are locked in litigation that started when Michael Verona's company told Helena to clean up its chemicals, Pasquale Verona said. Many of the documents submitted to OSHA surfaced as part of that lawsuit.
The township's construction code official intervened in the fall, sending orders to both companies. The officer, G. Michael Grill, wanted Helena to get evidence from a fire safety expert on the quantity and safety of chemicals it stored on site, he said. Lawyers for both companies and the township are working out a plan to monitor the chemicals stored there, he said.
“They did respond to (the order), but possibly not to everyone's satisfaction,” Grill said, adding that a resolution could come any day.
According to documents Pasquale Verona obtained via the lawsuit, Helena's consultant, Code Consultants Inc., found the company was storing more than what state building code allows in typical warehouses for several types of chemicals. That included more than 20 times the limit for toxic solids, more than six times the limit for highly toxic noncombustible liquids and more than five times the limit for highly toxic, corrosive solids, the documents said.
Helena might draw fines or a court order, Grill said.
The company shipped hundreds of thousands of pounds of chemicals on Dec. 4 to try to come into compliance with several of the limits, according to the documents.
Helena, headquartered outside of Memphis, has more than 3,000 employees working at more than 350 sites. It has paid $21,862.50 in fines for nine serious workplace safety violations since 2003, according to OSHA records. Those included three deaths.
Forward Solicitor Thomas John May declined to comment.
Timothy Puko is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7991 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- FedEx facility in Butler County could bring hundreds of jobs
- Zelienople development plans slowed by zoning
- Glitches could force quicker upgrades for Butler emergency services
- PPG regional headquarters opens in Cranberry, adds 150 jobs
- Butler County sees spike in new homes sales
- Butler, city workers aim to iron out contract details by year’s end
- Butler County briefs: Butler bans exotic pets from public events
- Lack of funds halts Park Place expansion in Cranberry
- Spending history to appear on Butler County budget
- GSA to examine VA lease contracts after collapse of Butler Twp. deal
- Butler Salvation Army driven to go it alone