A 1200-gal metal dryer that became overpressurized during a chemical product drying operation is the cause of an explosion and fire at the Optima Belle Chemical LLC facility located in Belle W.V., on December 8. The material in the dryer was a chlorinated compound used for sanitization.

Optima is a tenant on The Chemours Company plant site. The Chemours Emergency Response Team and the City of Belle Fire Department were the first responders to the incident, with additional assistance from Kanawha County Emergency Management.

There were three chemical operators in the building at the time of the incident. Chemical operator John Gillenwater was killed at Optima Belle. Two others were treated at a local hospital and released.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board has deployed a team to investigate the event. According to information reported to the CSB, a pressure vessel became overpressurized, creating the fire.

Optima is cooperating with local, state, and federal officials on continuing investigation of this incident, it stated in a release. A detailed and thorough analysis will be performed to determine the root cause.