I-Team 8

Walmart warehouse fire leads to testing of drinking water

PLAINFIELD, Ind. (WISH) — After Wednesday’s massive fire destroyed the Walmart distribution center and left concerns about air quality, one big question remains: What started this fire and when will the details be released?

The Plainfield fire chief says no timeline exists to give an answer.

The fire over more than two days burned home goods, clothes, small appliances, electronics and other items shipped to and from this building.

The last fire engine unhooked its hose and pulled away Friday, the first time since the noon hour Wednesday that firefighters had not been pouring water on the fire and its hot spots. Investigators from local, state and federal agencies were not sure when they might get inside the building to determined the fire’s cause.

Rain on Friday helped clear the air somewhat and knocked down the strong chemical smell.

The concern over air quality brought an Environmental Protection Agency team to the site Wednesday to test the air for fine particulates, but the test results are not yet back from a lab.

James Mitchell, an EPA investigator, on Friday cautioned people who live downwind to not linger outdoors. “Our indications are, right now, if there is visible smoke in the air, it is probably a good idea to not linger in it. We don’t recommend that people remain indoors, don’t linger in the smoke and, if it is causing a nuisance, you can wear an N-95 mask.”

Friday’s rain brought another concern. All of the dust and debris in the air will end up in storm drains and the drinking water supply. The EPA team says it has advised local water companies to increase their testing.

Also during the news conference Friday, no knew the last time the Walmart distribution center had received a fire inspection.