Public meeting to address fires

by Kamariea Forcier

Attorneys have called for a public meeting with several University-area residents following a second chemical fire in December at Hawkins Chemical Co. in Minneapolis.
The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the Sheraton Minneapolis Metrodome Hotel at 1330 Industrial Blvd. in Minneapolis.
No one was seriously injured in either accident, although attorney Randy Hopper said the incidents raise some very serious concerns about the chemical company’s safety measures.
Hopper is an attorney in a class-action lawsuit, in which several University students are suing the Hawkins Chemical Co. because of dangers they were exposed to in the 1995 chemical fire.
The law firm of Zimmerman Reed is sponsoring the community meeting to discuss possibilities of a new lawsuit, or an amendment to the first.
Hawkins Chemical Co. has a four-building complex located at 3030 E. Hennepin Ave., just blocks away from the University’s housing complex specifically designed for students with families.
In a December Star Tribune article, neighborhood resident Rachelle Hericks said, “It’s a little excessive. They shouldn’t have the chemical plant that close to a residential area if it is going to be causing problems like this all the time and inconveniencing people.”
Both fires released noxious clouds of chlorine gas into the air, which affected a four-block area, according to city officials’ estimate.
Side effects from chlorine gas include irritation of the eyes, nose and respiratory system.
Since the first chemical fire in 1995, during which more than 40 students were evacuated from their homes, Hawkins Chemical Co. has installed a sprinkler system and emergency response plan.
City officials said that without these improvements, the second fire could have been much more serious.