The Look in Brief

Eastman Chemical ‘steam line failure’ rains debris in Kingsport neighborhood; traces of asbestos found

By: - February 2, 2022 6:00 am
Eastman Chemical, based in Kingsport, Tenn. (Photo: Facebook)

Eastman Chemical, based in Kingsport, Tenn. (Photo: Facebook)

A day after residents of Kingsport, Tenn. were rocked by the sound of a loud blast, smoke plumes, raining debris and power outages from a “high pressure steam line failure” at the Eastman Chemical Plant, company officials distributed fliers saying the incident was highly unlikely to cause health problems while local news outlets captured images of workers outside homes in hazmat suits behind asbestos warning tape.

Five workers suffered minor injuries in the incident, which occurred at about 7:30 a.m. Monday just after a shift change at the plant. On Tuesday, Eastman officials said they had found traces of asbestos in some of the debris, likely from insulation in piping at the plant.

During a Tuesday press conference, conducted remotely, Eastman officials attempted to reassure worried residents. Health problems that result from asbestos are typically due to repeat exposures to high concentrations in an industrial or work environments, said Mark Bogle, vice president and Tennessee operations leader.

“In our opinion we don’t believe anyone was exposed to a harmful level of asbestos with this event,” Bogle said.

Local residents are being told not to disturb or clean up any of the debris “out of an abundance of caution,” he said. The company has asked residents who have seen debris in their homes, yards or on cars to contact the company, which will send out a clean up crew.

Eastman is in the process of bringing in experienced clean-up personnel. Bogle said clean up would not be a one or two-day job, but did not provide an estimate on how long it will take.

The company has notified the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, the Chemical Safety Board and the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Response Center about the incident, Bogle said.

Bogle said company officials acted quickly after the incident, sending teams Monday to a nearby elementary school playground where they found no evidence of any debris or dust. The company also conducted eight air quality tests. The results were at levels that the EPA deems to be safe, Bogle said.

Eastman’s Kingsport facility produces a broad range of chemicals, fibers and plastics found in products such as paint, adhesives, textiles, sports bottles, pharmaceuticals and medical devices, according to the company website




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Anita Wadhwani
Anita Wadhwani

Anita Wadhwani is a senior reporter for the Tennessee Lookout. The Tennessee AP Broadcasters and Media (TAPME) named her Journalist of the Year in 2019 as well as giving her the Malcolm Law Award for Investigative Journalism. Wadhwani is formerly an investigative reporter with The Tennessean who focused on the impact of public policies on the people and places across Tennessee. She is a graduate of Columbia University in New York and the University of California at Berkeley School of Journalism. Wadhwani lives in Nashville with her partner and two children.