NEW ALBANY — A yellow plume of smoke billowing from a New Albany industrial park Tuesday morning was caused by the release of nitrogen oxide and wasn’t believed to be dangerous, officials said.

Emergency responders shut down Interstate 265 and Mt. Tabor Road on Tuesday morning while responding to the incident. The smoke cloud, visible in the New Albany skyline for several miles, was caused by the release of nitrogen oxide at Blue Grass Chemical Specialties.

The company is located along Industrial Boulevard.

“I spoke with Blue Grass Chemical Specialties’s chemical engineer, and he informed me that the smoke was a form of Nitrogen Oxide that is not harmful at these quantities,” New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan said in a post to the city’s Facebook page Tuesday afternoon.

The “all clear” was given around 1 p.m. Tuesday after some businesses and schools, including Indiana University Southeast, gave orders to shelter in place.

Gahan said there wasn’t an explosion or fire at the plant.

Blue Grass Chemical Specialties Executive Vice President Paul McCauley spoke with media at a Tuesday afternoon news conference. He said the issue occurred Tuesday morning due to a reactor acting at a faster rate than usual, preventing the nitrogen oxides, or NOx, from going through the usual scrubber filters, according to newsgathering partners WAVE3. The reaction caused the NOx to fill the building before it was emitted into the air.

The exact amount of NOx released was undetermined as of Tuesday, and an internal investigation into the cause of the issue was ongoing. The results of the investigation will be reported to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

He said no one in the plant was taken to the hospital. He noted that NOx is a common biproduct of the work at Blue Grass Chemical, which involves production of metal nitrate solutions, and NOx also comes from the tailpipe of cars but in different concentrations.

“NOx is a pollutant, so no pollutant is good to breathe in, needless to say,” he said.

McCauley said it is difficult to measure the exact amount released once the NOx left the building since it quickly dispersed. The plant has a permit with IDEM to generate NOx with the use of scrubbers.

Floyd County Emergency Management Agency Director Kent Barrow said Tuesday afternoon there’s no threat to the environment or to people due to the incident.

“Bluegrass Chemical, they have a process where they clean metals and the process malfunctioned and created the release,” Barrow said. “Obviously us arriving on scene, not knowing exactly what the chemical was, is the reason we took the precautionary measures to instruct the two elementary schools to do a shelter-in-place and shut down a portion of Interstate 265. There was no other shelter in place issued or warranted, because of the dissipation in the atmosphere.”

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