Worker hurt in explosion at Kansas chemical plant

Posted: Updated:
Wilson County Emergency Management Wilson County Emergency Management

Federal safety inspectors are investigating an explosion and fire at a southeast Kansas chemical plant that injured one employee.

The explosion occurred about 7 a.m. Tuesday at the Airosol, Inc., plant in Neodesha, a town of about 2,500 residents in Wilson County. It was still not contained early Tuesday afternoon.

A 57-year-old male employee was taken to a hospital with burns. Cassandra Edson, spokeswoman for Wilson County Emergency Management, says his injuries were not considered life-threatening.

Some roads leading to Neodesha were closed after the explosion. The Kansas Highway Patrol reported at mid-afternoon all roads were back open, with the exception of the U.S. 75-U.S. 400 north junction west of town.

Evacuations were ordered in areas west and north of Osage and 9th, and north to Cobalt Industries. Shelters were set up at United Methodist, First Christian and Nazarene churches. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says it has begun an investigation.

"Neodesha has a 'do not use water' order in place rather than a boil order, the county health department said on Facebook. "Do not use water for anything but flushing, even if boiled. This is a precaution because of the loss of water pressure which can allow organisms and bacteria into the water system."

The order includes rural water districts 12, 6, 3 and 4. 

Wichita resident Destinee Spencer is collecting bottled water and non-perishable food items for those affected. For a drop-off location, call (316) 550-1792.

Fire and law enforcement officials from Neodesha, Fredonia and Wilson County responded along with the Kansas Highway Patrol, the wildlife and parks department and officials from Montgomery County.

The cause of the explosion is under investigation. The plant manufactures and packages aerosol, liquid and other specialty chemicals for industries.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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