Chemical health and safety news from the past two weeks:
- The June issue of AIChE’s Process Safety Beacon reflects on the 1988 Piper Alpha disaster in the North Sea, when “a series of catastrophic explosions and fires” killed 167 people and destroyed the platform.
- OSHA announced a new national emphasisi program to protect workers from isocyanates
- EPA says do not use propane or other unapproved refrigerants in home air conditioners
- Toxic substances reform legislation could make it harder to seek damages from companies, lawyers say
- Crowdsourcing toxicity prediction through a computational contest to improve models
- Love and loss in West, Tex.
- On the Chevron plant in Richmond, Calif., that CSB is investigating after a pipe failure led to a massive fire: Richmond Chevron refinery’s new boss cut from a different cloth; Chevron plans $1 billion upgrade of its Richmond refinery; Chevron refinery blaze to cost Richmond, school district millions in property tax revenues (because the fire knocked out a main crude refining unit, the refinery’s income decreased, and the refinery’s assessed value decreased in turn; the end result is a loss of $6.1 million in tax revenues for the city)
- Elsewhere in California, decisions on on a toxic waste dump and battery recycler spark fury in two communities
- Yale has established a $14 million fund for undergraduate scholarships, graduate fellowships, and other programs to benefit women in STEM fields; the fund is in the name of Michele Dufault, an astronomy and physics major who died in a machine shop accident in 2011. (Because I know someone will ask: The UC Berkeley law scholarship endowment in Sheri Sangji’s name is $500,000.)
Other fires and explosions:
- An acrylic acid reactor exploded at Shanghai Huayi Acrylic Acid in China, no one was injured
- Also in China, “Workers at the Shanghai Shengying Petrochemical Co manually put chemical materials into a reactor kettle that exploded and caused fire in the factory. It was not only illegal but was not even experimented before, the Shanghai Work Safety Administration said. … The reactor was stuffed with nitric acid, epoxyethane among others. ” Six people were injured.
- A fire involving 30,000 gals of butane being transfered from a train car to a transfer station in Pennsylvania badly burned one worker
- A used solvent collection tank caught fire during start-up of a new process at Voltaix in Pennsylvania. The working theory is that oxygen got into the tank and reacted with something.
- A fire at Drug & Laboratory Disposal in Michigan “started when a small amount of a chemical being neutralized under a hood by a chemist unexpectedly stared to spark and smoke.” The chemist was working in a hood and the fire was reportedly quickly contained, but somehow rekindled overnight (there’s got to be more to this story–a fire that didn’t involve large stores of chemicals rekindles after fire crews put it out?)
- A cart containing acid and oxidizers mysteriously started fire at Penn State University, and two students put it out with a fire extinguisher
Leaks, spills, and other exposures:
- A fire at Quality Distribution in Utah left 2,400 gals of a temperature-sensitive organic peroxide without air conditioning, and some of the drums were leaking. Authorities wound up doing controlled burns to dispose of the material.
- A nitrogen leak at an Intel facility in Arizona left people complaining of breathing problems and eye and skin irritation
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