Chemical health and safety news from the past two weeks:
- The October issue of AIChE’s Process Safety Beacon focuses on managing temporary changes: “Remember that temporary modifications require the same thorough analysis as permanent changes.”
- The Department of Energy fined Idaho National Laboratory more than $400,000 for two 2011 incidents in which employees were exposed to low levels of plutonium radiation
- Hundreds of safety issues found at European nuclear plants
- A French court convicted a factory chief and a subsidiary of oil and gas company Total of manslaughter for the deaths of 31 people in a fertilizer plant explosion in Toulouse in 2001. Two thousand more people were injured in the blast. “A 2006 report by judicial investigators blamed the explosion on negligence that allowed ammonium nitrate to come into contact with other chemicals.”
- A jury convicted Citgo in 2007 of criminal violations of the clean air act for emissions from two uncovered storage tanks at a Corpus Christi, Tex., refinery. A judge has now granted criminal-victim status to 15 local residents who were sickened by the pollution. They want $80,000 for medical screening, an $11 million trust fund for cancer treatment, and $15 million for relocation. Separately, the justice department proposed a fine of $2 million for the criminal conviction. It’s not clear when the case will move forward next, although considering that it’s taken five years since the conviction to get this far, I doubt it will end anytime soon.
- Honeywell International, the Maryland Port Administration, and the Maryland Department of the Environment agreed on a $27 million plan to contain chromium in contaminated soil at the Dundalk Marine Terminal. “The state shares responsibility for the remediation, according to M. Kathleen Broadwater, the port agency’s deputy executive director, because the port agreed to use the wastes from a chromium ore processing plant that operated in the Inner Harbor until the 1980s as fill dirt for the terminal.”
Fires and explosions:
- As of the last report I could find, an explosion and fire at specialty chemical company Penn A Kem in Tennessee had killed one worker and seriously injured another; the incident involved furfurylamine and methanol
- An explosion when workers were unloading hydrochloric acid killed at least three and injured five others at the Gumi National Industrial Complex in South Korea
- An explosion in a “purification workshop” run by Hechi Chemical Industrial Group in China killed two workers and injured seven more
- An explosion and fire in an acrylic acid tank at a at a Nippon Shokubai SAP plant in Japan killed one firefighter and injured 36 other emergency responders and plant workers
- “Mixing two non-compatible chemicals” caused a violent reaction and a fire at Microwave Development Laboratories in Massachusetts; one employee was injured
- Not a fire, exactly, but this seems like the best category: At Missouri State University, a chemical reaction created enough heat that a thermoplastic melted, which produced a lot of black smoke and caused a solder joint to fail, in turn leading to a leak. No one was hurt but it sounds like there was a lot of water and smoke damage.
Leaks, spills, and other exposures:
- Wisconsin-based custom-chemical manufacturer ChemDesign released 1,1-dimethoxy-N,N-dimethylmethanamine when an air scrubber stopped working. What do we make of this line: The company’s director of environmental health and safety “said no actual chemicals were released, just the odor from chemicals inside the plant”?
- One worker was injured in a trifluoromethanesulfonic acid spill at Emerald Performance Materials in North Carolina
- Hydrochloric acid spilled at an Olin Chemical plant in Georgia
- SABIC Innovative Plastics released a small amount of phosgene in Indiana
- A big yellow-orange cloud floated over a Honeywell plant in Virginia after a nitrogen oxide release
Not covered (usually): meth labs; ammonia leaks; incidents involving floor sealants, cleaning solutions, or pool chemicals; transportation spills; things that happen at recycling centers (dispose of your waste properly, people!); and fires from oil, natural gas, or other fuels.