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McJunkin workers made ill after opening box

Chip Ellis
Emergency crews were dispatched to a McJunkin Corp. warehouse in Nitro on Monday after workers found a suspicious white powder inside a pipe fitting shipped from Mexico. Two workers were sickened and the residue was sent to the FBI for analysis.
Chip Ellis McJunkin Executive Vice President James Underhill (right) told reporters there was no real threat to employees or the public from the incident. The all-clear was sounded and the warehouse reopened about 2:30 p.m.

NITRO, W.Va. -- A mysterious white powder found at a warehouse in Nitro has been sent to the FBI for analysis.

Kanawha County Deputy Emergency Manager C.W. Sigman said two workers at the McJunkin Corp. warehouse in Nitro discovered a suspicious white powder inside a pipe fitting in a box shipped from Mexico at about 11:30 a.m., and immediately started suffering respiratory problems. Sigman said the workers plugged up the pipe fitting with a piece of plastic and hurried outside.

Sigman said both workers felt better immediately, but the road near the facility was closed and emergency crews were called in as a precaution.

Sigman said the Kanawha County bomb squad and a Nitro Fire Department hazardous materials team were called in, but could not retrieve enough of the substance to figure out what it was. He said a crew from the state Department of Environmental Protection, with more specialized equipment, was then called in.

Nitro is located partly in Kanawha County and partly in Putnam County. McJunkin is on the Putnam County side of the line. Sigman said Nitro Police, Kanawha County sheriff's deputies and authorities from Putnam County were all on the scene, including troopers from the Winfield State Police detachment.

Sigman said both workers refused medical treatment.

He said DEP officials could not identify the substance either, so a sample is being sent to the FBI. The all-clear was sounded at the warehouse at about 2:30 p.m.

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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