Eastman finishes year without missing an order; planning safety improvements

Eastman CEO Mark Costa tells audience members about the company's plans for future safety. (Thomas Gray/WCYB)

Unbelievably, Eastman Chemical Company did not miss a single customer order despite explosions, a fire and a temporary shutdown in October, Eastman’s CEO Mark Costa said.

Costa's update to regional government and business leaders today comes four and a half months after the explosions at the company's coal gasification plant. There is still no word from the company or multiple state and federal investigators on what caused the incident. People in Kingsport have been waiting for an update from Eastman on what the company is doing to prepare for a future emergency.

At a forum with regional government and business leaders, Eastman CEO Mark Costa assured the audience that its rebuilt coal gasification plant is safer than before.

"As we repaired the facility, we built it in much safer, much better shape,” Costa said. “This combination of events will not ever happen again."

For at least one person in the audience, that wasn't enough. Resident Pat Turner said public information was confusing about who was affected.

"One of the things with the shelter in place time was 'if you live within such and such a distance of Eastman,'” Turner said. “Many people had no idea how far they lived."

"There's no question there are opportunities for improvement on that front. We've been working with the community leaders and the first responders."

The company is also working to issue public communication faster. Many in Kingsport had criticized what was up to a two-hour delay of communication after the explosions.

"We were in the process, in real time, trying to figure it out, so when we communicate to the community, we know that it's accurate,” Eastman Senior Vice President David Golden said. “Due to the complexity of it, that actually took a little bit of time."

"I am very glad that they are working on plans so that they aren't going to frighten the community," Turner said when asked if she was satisfied with Eastman officials’ answers.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off