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Shelter In Place Ordered After Chemical Leak At Selkirk's SABIC

A number of state and law enforcement agencies are responding to a hazardous material leak in Albany County. 

Bethlehem Police say an unknown amount of styrene leaked from a rail car on SABIC’s Selkirk property Tuesday morning. No injuries were reported at the chemical manufacturing company. Authorities ordered the evacuation of non-essential businesses within a half-mile radius and advised residents within a mile to shelter in place due to the volatile nature of the substance.

Basil Seggos, Commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said the cause of the leak is still under investigation. He says the situation is stable because local fire departments have kept the rail car temperature down by dousing it with water. He says no rail car overturned, but styrene escaped in a gaseous form.

“The public may notice odors," Seggos said. "Styrene odors are sort of a sweet plastic-ey smell. That’s not necessarily an indication of a health problem. I want to be very clear. We have learned styrene odors are detectable at a very low level. 1,000 times below a health action level.”

Nine air monitoring stations have been placed around the site. No residents have been evacuated, but officials say roads surrounding SABIC will remain blocked off until at least Wednesday.

Update at 7:45 a.m. Sept. 2, 2020: Officials say all roads have reopened and businesses within the half-mile radius can re-open to full staffing.

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