GREENFIELD — The county’s first hazardous materials team is one step closer to being prepared to respond to emergencies.
Recently, the Greenfield Board of Works and Public Safety approved buying a hazardous materials truck from Covance Laboratories, equipping the team with one of the last items it needs to become active after a years-long wait. On Tuesday, the fire department picked up the keys and drove the truck back to the station.
The creation of a hazmat team has been a priority for more than three years, and department officials have taken incremental steps toward making it a reality, including training firefighters in the treatment of hazardous waste. Officials now will be able to move forward with launching the team, Greenfield Fire Department Chief James Roberts said.
“This is one of the last pieces we need to get it off the ground,” Roberts said. “We have almost everything in place; we just have no way to mobilize them.”
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The department is purchasing the used 1996 truck with 2,000 miles on it from Covance at a discount, for $5,000. As part of the agreement, the fire department has agreed to donate safety training to Covance personnel.
In 2013, the hazmat team’s 17 members underwent an 80-hour state-mandated training course to become certified hazardous materials technicians. Since then, the team received a state grant to purchase equipment, Roberts said.
A special truck for the team was a necessity because the department’s fire trucks aren’t large enough to store the needed equipment for handling hazardous material spills, Roberts said.
Creating a hazardous materials team makes sense for several reasons, officials say. First, Greenfield sits at the intersection of two major highways, State Road 9 and U.S. 40, and is located off Interstate 70. Second, the county is home to a variety of industries whose work involves numerous chemicals that, if handled improperly or spilled, could be dangerous.
An emergency involving hazardous materials could happen at anytime, Roberts said. The county needs to be prepared to handle the situation. Until the team here is fully operational, local officials continue to depend on Marion County to assist during incidents involving hazardous material. He said having a local team will improve response time.
Historically, the department has been able to handle minor incidents involving hazardous materials — fuel spills after an accident, for example.
Having a hazardous team at the ready is a good idea even if there’s just some question about materials that could be exposed to the air, Roberts said.
If a semitrailer driver is injured during an accident, for example, he won’t necessarily be in the condition to provide information about what chemicals he was hauling.
Roberts said it will take time to prepare the truck for it to be used. But he’s excited the team is finally taking shape and has the tools it needs to start serving the county.
“With the city the size we are now, we’ve got to be able to adequately take care of ourselves,” he said. “We’ve got to be prepared to take action if something were to take place and if there were a spill.”
Mayor Chuck Fewell said purchasing the truck through Covance was a no-brainer for the board of works.
It has all the features needed, including a command center in the rear.
“We’re excited to have the truck,” he said. “We have all the equipment, but we never had the vehicle.”
Purchasing a new truck with the same features could have cost as much as $250,000, Roberts said.
Covance leaders say the truck wasn’t used often during the time the company owned it. Giving it to the city will make the truck more useful to the community, they said.
“We were able to fulfill a need within the community,” said Steve Smith, associate director for environmental health and safety. “Green-field is not as small as we used to be.”
This week, Greenfield City Council is expected to consider establishing an ordinance that creates a fee schedule for when the hazmat team has to respond to emergencies.