A Texas chemical plant faces seven serious federal health and safety violations and $45,000 in fines for a massive fire that burned the facility to the ground in October.
No one was injured in the chemical fire Oct. 3 that gutted the 100,000-square-foot Magnablend Inc. Central Facility in Waxahachie, 30 miles south of Dallas. The plant was one of eight owned by the company, which manufactures and blends hundreds of chemicals for industrial and consumer markets.
|A flow of blazing chemicals consumed a fire truck during the massive fire that also destroyed Magnablend’s Central Facility in October.|
The fast-moving blaze also consumed a fire truck at the scene. Employees escaped, about 1,000 area residents were evacuated, and children at a nearby school were kept indoors.
“It is fortunate that no one was hurt,” said OSHA Area Director Jack Rector.
Vapors, Sprinklers Cited
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said the plant lacked sufficient ventilation, leading to a build-up of vapors; used ersatz electrical equipment; had an inadequate sprinkler system; and did not train workers in handling hazardous chemicals.
|About 1,000 nearby residents were evacuated, and children were sheltered in an area school, but no injuries were reported in the blaze.|
Specifically, the citations allege failure to
• Conduct a hazard assessment;
• Install a sufficient ventilation system;
• Train workers in specific hazardous chemical protection procedures;
• Evaluate respiratory inhalation hazards;
• Ensure that the fire sprinkler system was adequate;
• Use electrical equipment in accordance with its labeling;
• Document the classification of hazardous locations for electrical purposes; and
• Ensure that electrical equipment was considered safe for the location where it was used.
All of the citations are classified as serious, reflecting “substantial probability” of death or serious injury from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
Magnablend declined to comment on the citations.
Cleanup and Remediation
The company has opened a new facility elsewhere in Waxahachie as cleanup and restoration of the original site continue under the direction of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and the City of Waxahachie.
The fire was followed by more than seven weeks of air monitoring by the EPA, extensive water testing and installation of a bypass system to capture excess rainwater around the property and prevent it from coming in contact with the property.
|The facility produced more than 200 products using, among other chemicals, anhydrous ammonia, benzene, toluene, xylene and ethylbenzene.|
The fire also released high levels of organic nitrogen and organic phosphorus that led to rapid biotic growth in nearby bodies of water, killing about 1,800 fish.
The facility’s slab underwent remediation to remove previously stored materials and those used in the fire, and the impacted soil was collected and tested.
“Magnablend exposed its workers to fire hazards by failing to provide adequate ventilation that would have removed flammable hydrogen and other vapors,” said Jack Rector, OSHA’s area director in Fort Worth. “OSHA’s standards must be followed to prevent injuries and illnesses.”
Magnablend said in a statement Monday (April 2) that it was reviewing the citations, to determine whether to contest them.
“We take the citations seriously, and are carefully reviewing them,” said Magnablend CEO Scott Pendery. “I, and members of our management team, met with OSHA officials last month and discussed with them several of the items that we anticipated seeing in this final report.”
Pendery said the company was addressing agency concerns and would “continue to work with all agencies to ensure all necessary safety measures are in place as we move forward.”
“While the October fire was a catastrophic event, we are thankful that Magnablend’s evacuation training and protocol were successful in preventing any loss of life or serious injury,” Pendery said.