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Willimantic Fire Controlled, But Environmental Impacts Could Take Longer To Figure

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Jillian Ives
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Smoke from the fire at the Willimantic Waste Paper Company could be seen by local television radar.

A day after a massive fire broke out at a Connecticut waste and recycling plant, the blaze has been declared under control.

Windham Fire Chief Marc Scrivener said the fire that destroyed a 100,000-square-foot building at the Willimantic Waste Paper Company continued to smolder Monday, but is not expected to grow.

Jeff Chandler is with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. He said smoke from the fire is “localized to a lightly-densely populated portion of the city, which is good news.”

“We are advising people that do have smoke in their general vicinity to avoid the smoke. Particularly those that are predisposed to a respiratory ailment such as COPD or asthma,” Chandler said.

“We are not finding any of the airborne toxins that would be a by-product of the combustion in that smoke plume remote from the building,” he said, “which is also good news.”

Chandler said water in the nearby Willimantic River does show signs of surface contamination.

He said the state will continue to inspect the river to see if there is any ongoing impact to wildlife.

Local public schools and Eastern Connecticut State University were closed on Monday because of the smoke. The fire broke out just after 10:00 am Sunday with a plume that could be seen on local weather radar.

The cause of the fire is being investigated.

This story includes information from the Associated Press. 

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached by phone at 860-275-7297 or by email: pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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