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Residents keep eyes on smoke clouds

SOUTH POINT – Burning plastic at the former South Point Ethanol plant sent a cloud of smoke drifting east over homes and roadways Friday, and attracted attention as far away as Coal Grove.

Saturday, August 28, 1999

SOUTH POINT – Burning plastic at the former South Point Ethanol plant sent a cloud of smoke drifting east over homes and roadways Friday, and attracted attention as far away as Coal Grove.

Motorists traveling U.S. 52 at Marion Pike could see the huge black cloud in the distance.

"We were coming up off the bridge and saw it," said Melinda McCallister, who was headed back to her Perry Township home.

Mrs. McCallister, who lives next to the Little League baseball fields, walked up County Road 1 to near the 7-Up plant, so she could watch with binoculars.

"It wasn’t burning at 3:30 and we were back at 4:30," she said. "In that hour, I guess something went wrong."

She and neighbors tried to guess what material could cause such thick smoke, but didn’t know what was inside the burning building on the old plant site.

Pat Leighty, South Point village administrator, compared the building to a large plastic filter.

"And plastics are nothing but oil," he said. "That’s why you see that type of smoke and it smells like that."

Shortly after the blaze began, township and village residents lined County Road 1 to watch the black smoke billow into the sky and waft slowly over the northernmost part of South Point.

Randy Lyons, standing just east of the plant’s main entrance, said his children ran inside to tell him about the fire.

"We didn’t hear any explosion or anything," he said.

Other children playing after school in the subdivision near the plant noticed the blaze because of the smoke cloud.

"My sister came in and said, ‘The pipe’s on fire,’" Natusha Tibbs said, referring to the plant’s old smokestack that’s still standing.