MIDDLETON — An explosion at a chemical plant on Route 62 last night injured four people, rattled a neighborhood and was heard as far away as Peabody and Danvers.
None of the injuries were life-threatening, Middleton fire Chief Frank Twiss said last night. The four victims were taken to Beverly Hospital and brought to the decontamination unit inside the emergency room for evaluation, a hospital spokeswoman said.
The explosion took place at 7:39 p.m. at the Bostik chemical plant at 211 Boston St., next to the Ipswich River near the West Peabody line. It took firefighters 40 to 50 minutes to knock down a fire caused by the explosion.
Twiss and state Fire Marshal Stephen Coan said the cause of the explosion is under investigation. The blast caused so much damage to two of the plant's buildings that emergency workers could not reach the location where the explosion occurred, they said. The plant consists of multiple buildings.
It was unclear last night how many people were in the plant at the time of the explosion, and whether those injured worked at the facility.
Gina Macera, who lives near the plant, said the explosion "felt like a car crashed into my bed." "It was crazy," she said. "I'm still shaking."
Peabody police Capt. Joe Berardino said the explosion was so loud in Peabody that it sounded like a plane had crashed.
State hazardous material teams responded to the scene, as did teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. State police units and firefighters and police from Middleton and several surrounding communities were also on scene.
While several roads were closed after the explosion, the neighborhood around the plant was not evacuated.
Officials said there were no concerns about "airborne" contamination but they were looking into the possible effect on the Ipswich River, though air quality tests were ongoing. They said they did not know what chemicals were involved in the explosion. A list of chemicals used in the plant is on file with the Middleton Fire Department, Twiss said.
Twiss said Bostik has had an excellent safety record over the last several years. Coan said a hazardous materials team had been at the Bostik plant doing drills recently.
Bostik manufactures adhesives and sealants for use in everything from gas tankers and buildings to furniture and diapers, according to the company's website. The company says it is one of the largest adhesive and sealant companies in the world.
The plant's brick walls are just feet from the Ipswich River, whose watershed supplies drinking water for 14 communities.
"Obviously we're concerned," said Kerry Mackin, executive director of the Ipswich River Watershed Association. "Our first concern is the people who are at risk, but beyond that we're concerned about trying to prevent any pollution."
Mackin said Bostik has been "very conscientious" over the last two decades when it comes to environmental concerns.
"They've spent quite a bit of money cleaning up pollution," she said. "We've considered them to be very good environmental neighbors." Nancy Splinter, who lives on the other side of town, said she felt the explosion at her home on Campbell Road just before 8 p.m.
"Having felt the Danversport explosion several years ago, it wasn't that big but clearly you knew something was going on," Splinter said.
Anastas Varinos said he was a half-mile away at his home on Old Haswell Park Road, reading his environmental science book about, of all things, nuclear explosions.
"That's when I felt the boom," he said. "All the doors shook."
The incident marked the second explosion of a chemical plant in the last five years on the North Shore. In 2006, a chemical plant explosion in the Danversport section of Danvers damaged two dozen homes.