PaintSquare.com
Follow us on Twitter Follow us on LinkedIn Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram Visit the TPC Store
Search the site

 

Advertisement

PaintSquare


Coatings Industry News

Main News Page


CSB: Corroded Tanks Were Not Inspected

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

More items for Health & Safety

Comment | More

Severe corrosion damage unchecked by adequate inspections likely caused a January chemical spill that left nearly 300,000 West Virginians without drinking water for almost a week, according to the U.S. Chemical Safety Board.

On Jan. 9, Freedom Industries' 48,000-gallon tank leaked about 10,000 gallons of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM) mixed with propylene glycol phenyl ethers (PPH) into the Elk River in Charleston, WV.

CSB

"...Freedom Industries did not have a rigorous inspection program for these chemical storage tanks sited closed by the Elk River and just upstream from the facility supplying water to hundreds of thousands of people," investigator Lucy Tyler said.

MCHM is a foaming agent used to "wash" coal.

No Inspections

In an update on the investigation this month, the CSB said it had not yet found any record of a formal, industry-approved inspection being performed on any of the chemical storage tanks at Freedom Industries before the leak.

Informal inspections may have occurred, the CSB said, noting preliminary findings, but investigators have "found a lack of appropriate engineering inspections with prescribed frequency and rigor of inspections."

At the time of the incident, the New York Times reported that the storage facility had not been subject to a state or federal inspection since 1991. West Virginia requires inspections only for chemical production facilities, not storage facilities.

Damage to Multiple Tanks

So far, CSB's investigation found that corrosion caused two small holes (about 0.4 inch to 0.75 inch) in the bottom of the 48,000-gallon tank. The corrosion was probably caused by water leaking through holes in the roof and settling on the tank floor, the CSB said.

A nearby tank containing the same chemical had a similar hole penetrating the bottom, and other tanks showed multiple signs of pitting and metallurgical damage, investigators said.

CSB

The preliminary investigation found that corrosion had caused two small holes in the bottom of the tank, plus holes in the roof were allowing water to leak in and settle on the tank floor.

"While our investigation is still underway, it has become clear that Freedom Industries did not have a rigorous inspection program for these chemical storage tanks sited close by the Elk River and just upstream from the facility supplying water to hundreds of thousands of people," CSB investigator Lucy Tyler said in a statement.

Public Meeting

The CSB announced the investigation update July 16 at a public meeting. The meeting had been called to release a final report and recommendations on the combustible-dust explosion and fire that killed three workers in 2010 at AL Solutions Inc., a company that processes titanium and zirconium scrap metal.

"An underlying root cause of many of our investigations, including these latest two in West Virginia, is the lack of thorough inspections and hazard reviews, and the need for stricter regulations in areas where we find self-policing is not preventing accidents," said CSB Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso.

"The Board looks forward to the team's final report, which will examine regulatory oversight of aboveground storage tanks in West Virginia and the U.S.," Moure-Eraso said.

Seeking Oversight

In January, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced storage tank legislation, the Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act (S. 1961), to protect surface water from contamination by chemical storage facilities.

The CSB uploaded this video of the tank's dismantling for metallurgical analysis.

The proposal would cost about $114 million over four years, likely busting the federal threshold for unfunded mandates in the private sector.

According to a Congressional Budget Office cost estimate released June 5, the Manchin measure would affect public and private owners and operators of tens of thousands of storage tanks nationwide.

(The measure broadly defines covered chemical storage tanks as onshore, fixed, above-ground storage containers from which a release of a chemical could pose a risk of harm to a public water system.)

Only a small number of chemical storage tanks owned by public entities would be affected, putting their cost of compliance below the annual established by the 1995 Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA).

But compliance in the private sector would "probably" top that threshold, CBO said.

Metal Analysis Underway

Investigators oversaw metal extraction from the tank for metallurgical analysis. The CSB released a video of the tank dismantling, which used high-pressure water tools to cut through the metal in several places.

According to CSB Investigation Supervisor Johnnie Banks, who oversaw the dismantling, "I am confident the forensic data we will obtain will enable us to determine the exact cause of the corrosion and, we hope, determine how long it had been going on."

Banks said the team was also trying to determine installation dates for the tanks to review manufacturing and service history.

Foo Conner / @iwasaround via thinkprogress.org

Nearly 300,000 people were without potable water for almost a week; 369 people were treated for possible chemical exposure and 13 were hospitalized. The CSB said "the public continues to distrust declarations that the water is safe to drink."

"Whatever the governing regulations, and whatever the precise failure mechanism, companies have a responsibility to operate in a safe manner. Not inspecting corrodible steel aboveground storage tanks proved to be an accident waiting to happen," Banks said.

Public's Distrust

According to the investigators, the state's Department of Environmental Protection identified the release of MCHM at 11:15 a.m., but West Virginia America Water Company did not notify the public of the "Do Not Use" order until over five hours later.

The governor issued a state of emergency order that night at 9:30, and the president declared an emergency and announced federal assistance the following day.

"[T]he public continues to distrust declarations that the water is safe to drink," CSB investigators noted.

There is some information available on the acute effects of MCHM and PPH, but little is known about chronic health impacts from exposure at low concentration levels, the CSB said.

The CSB noted that 369 patients were treated for possible exposure following the chemical release into the drinking water, and 13 were hospitalized. Of these:

  • 38 percent exhibited symptoms of nausea;
  • 28.5 percent showed skin rashes; and
  • 28 percent experienced vomiting.

"This accident was a disaster of the highest magnitude, was preventable, and must be averted in any other community," Moure-Eraso said.

   

Tagged categories: Accidents; Containment; Corrosion; Environmental Protection; Government; Inspection; Steel; Tanks; U.S. Chemical Safety Board

Comment Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.

Advertisements
 
Clemco Industries Corp.
 
Maximum Dust Suppression Systems Start at $14,950
 
The system comprises proven technology and equipment with user-friendly flexibility in mind. See it in action.
 

 
SAFE Systems, Inc.
 
Custom blast rooms
by SAFE Systems
 
Don't waste time and money "making do" with a "standard" design. Let us work with you to design and build the system that best fits your requirements.
Call 1-800-634-7278
 

 
Industrial Vacuum Equipment Corp.
 
Hurricane Vacuums
& Dust Collectors
 
Vacuum and dust collector hose, filters and related accessories.
IndustrialVacuum.com
 

 
Bullard
 
Upgrade with the Bullard GenVX
 
Click here to learn how you can get a GenVX Helmet and Win.
 

 
Tnemec Company, Inc.
 
Online Coating Courses from Tnemec
 
For decades, Tnemec has offered its expertise to clients presenting face-to-face coatings courses. Now, these presentations are available to anyone for CEUs at Tnemec University.
 

 
Termarust Technologies
 
Termarust (HR CSA) Chemically Stops
Active Corrosion
 
Arch truss treated with Termarust's (HR CSA) in 2003. This steel arch bridge is rust free on all surfaces including the crevice corroded joints and connections.
 

 
Carboline Company
 
Fireproofing Solutions
 
Pyroclad® X1 Thermo-Lag® Pyrocrete® – protecting against hydrocarbon and jet fires, explosions, and cryogenic spills.
 

 
RBW Enterprises, Inc.
 
Robotic Blasting and Painting
 
When using the FasterBlaster and FasterPainter, blasting and painting can be conducted simultaneously. View the video for a full explanation of the operation.
 

 
Vector Technologies Ltd.
 
The Original Performance Proven Vacuum Solutions
 
VecLoader® 616 Double Dump, Continuous Vacuum, 170 HP w/ 2,400 CFM & 28” Hg. 33% More Efficient than traditional vacuum systems! Choose Vector for the most powerful and the most reliable trailer mounted vacuums in the industry! Email us at: inquiry@vector-vacuums.com or call us at: 800-832-4010
 

 
Absolute Equipment/Grand Rental Station
 
TIER 4 EQUIPMENT
 
We have Tier 4 Equipment including Air Compressors & Generators for Sale & Rent! Your job may now require Tier-4. www.absoluteequip.com or Call 412-931-6655.
 

 
 
 

Technology Publishing Co., 2100 Wharton Street, Suite 310, Pittsburgh PA 15203-1951

TEL 1-412-431-8300  • FAX  1-412-431-5428  •  EMAIL webmaster@paintsquare.com


The Technology Publishing Network

Durability + Design PaintSquare the Journal of Protective Coatings & Linings Paint BidTracker

 
EXPLORE:      JPCL   |   PaintSquare News   |   Interact   |   Buying Guides   |   Webinars   |   Resources   |   Classifieds
REGISTER AND SUBSCRIBE:      Free PaintSquare Registration   |   Subscribe to JPCL   |   Subscribe to PaintSquare News
MORE:      About PaintSquare.com   |   Privacy policy   |   Terms & conditions   |   Site Map   |   Search   |   Contact Us