Lordstown fire chief & Trumbull Co. EMA voice concerns over Ultium Cells safety
Ultium Cells is test-running batteries, gearing up to start production next month.
This comes as a handful of workers went to the hospital from chemical exposure over the weekend.
With the plant's unique safety concerns, the county and first responders said there is a lot they need to learn before they feel confident having this massive battery plant right down the road.
"We are glad that they're here. We're glad that they're bringing jobs to the Valley," Lordstown Fire Chief Travis Eastham said, "That's priority one...besides safety."
Eastham said he's all about the Voltage Valley, but added there's a lot of training needed to safely handle potential emergencies from chemicals used inside the new Ultium Cells plant.
"It is a concern with our fire departments and emergency responding to battery fires, chemical spills," he said, "We do need to get some type of program here to train firefighters and my thoughts are, If we are going to be named Voltage Valley, we need to lead the way. We don't need to be learning later on. We need to be learning now and teach other places how to control these types of batteries and spills and things of that nature."
The problem is that training costs a lot of money.
"We can't afford it as a local department," he said, "We don't have the resources to spend to do this, so this is something that either needs to come from federal money, state money, or corporations."
Trumbull County EMA Director John Hickey is in touch with lawmakers to work on bringing funding to the whole region for training.
"If we did have an incident, it would be a multi-county issue," Hickey said, "In my opinion, the first responders in Trumbull and Mahoning County need to be the best at handling not only the batteries but electric vehicles."
Once production starts, Ultium Cells is expected to file a list of all hazardous chemicals used in the plant.
21 News obtained a list of some of the chemicals including:
Hydrogen (can cause explosions)
Diflouromethane (with contact can cause suffocation)
Ensaco (can form combustible dust)
Local firefighters said they haven't dealt with battery-making chemicals before.
"This is new for them. It's new for us," Eastham said, "It's something we are going to have to work through and learn as we go, but I'd like to try and stay ahead of it."
Both Hickey and Eastham said they are very supportive of the plant and looking forward to the future, but just want to be prepared.
21 News reached out to Ultium Cells on where they stand with their safety protocols, but have not heard back.