After two days, residents were able to return home Friday after firefighters made progress battling a large industrial fire at a federal Superfund site in central Tennessee, officials said.
Tennessee Emergency Management Agency spokesman Jeremy Heidt said a crew of contractors for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency were putting out the blaze in rural Hickman County.
They were using bulldozers and trackhoes to push dirt onto the fire. About 300 people ended up evacuated Thursday morning and nearby schools remained closed.
The fire at Industrial Plastics Recycle, about 45 miles southwest of Nashville, started up Wednesday morning. On Wednesday afternoon, firefighters had to stop trying to put out the blaze after they learned that two 1,000 gallon propane tanks were on the property. Heidt said on Thursday workers had moved one of the propane tanks out of the way, and both were no longer a hazard.
Heidt said the main reason the evacuation order was in place for a long period of time was concern over the inhalation of smoke and soot. There have not been any reports of injuries.
The government set up federal Superfund sites in an effort to clean up areas that contain hazardous toxic waste. The EPA website said the former Wrigley Charcoal Plant, located northwest of Highway 100, ended up on the National Priorities List in 1989 because of contaminated debris, ground water and soil in the county of about 24,000. The Superfund area includes a 35-acre primary site and surrounding areas comprising about 300 acres.
The fire occurred on a portion of the primary site occupied by Industrial Plastics Recycling, a small-scale facility that recycles metals and plastics and has waste product storage.
According to the EPA website, the Superfund site was home to various industrial operations, including iron, charcoal and wood distillation product manufacturing, beginning in 1880. Contaminants of concern at the site include wood tar chemicals, metals and volatile organic compounds.
Heidt said they do not yet know what started the fire.
TDEC spokeswoman Kelly Brockman said state environmental officials will have to wait until the fire is out before they can assess possible public health and environmental implications.