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Chemical Co. Cited Again—and Again

Monday, May 14, 2012

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A Texas chemical maker whose central plant burned to the ground in October continues to pile up citations for hazardous conditions at that site and elsewhere.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has cited Magnablend Inc. for four violations in the fast-moving blaze Oct. 3 that leveled the company’s 100,000-square-foot Central Facility in Waxahachie, just south of Dallas.

 Magnablend has received a new set of violations related to the October fire that leveled its Central Facility in Waxahachie, TX.

 Cole Legal Group / wfaa.com

Magnablend has received a new set of violations related to the October fire that leveled its Central Facility in Waxahachie, TX.

Employees escaped the fire uninjured, but about 1,000 nearby residents were evacuated, and the blaze contaminated local bodies of water and the air. Site cleanup and monitoring are continuing.

OSHA Citations

In March, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued seven serious citations and $45,000 in total fines against Magnablend in the blaze, citing lack of ventilation, lack of training, excessive vapors, an inadequate sprinkler system and electrical hazards at the plant.

That case has been settled with a total fine of $35,000.

State Violations

Meanwhile, TCEQ has weighed in with additional violations at the gutted plant. According to TCEQ, the company:

• Caused a traffic hazard during the fire;

• Failed to submit an emissions report to the State of Texas Environmental Electronic Reporting System (STEERS) within 48 hours of the event as required (the report was submitted nine days after the fire);

• Exceeded emissions limits during the fire; and

• Created nuisance conditions in its discharges and emissions.

“It appears that the incident could have been avoided with better maintenance or engineering practices,” TCEQ concluded. Although TCEQ recommended enforcement actions to correct the violations, the company has already built an entirely new plant in another location.

‘Something We Had Anticipated’

“Our team has met with TCEQ officials frequently since the event last year, collaborating on soil and water testing, as well as clean-up of the site and affected surrounding properties,” said Magnablend CEO Scott Pendery. 

“Given the nature of the incident and the open communication we have had with TCEQ, the notices were something we had anticipated.”

Pendery said the company continues to work with TCEQ to ensure all necessary environmental safety measures are in place as the company moves forward and that remediation from the fire is completed in its entirety.

“We are thankful for the constant assistance from TCEQ officials as we have worked to mitigate the environmental impact from the catastrophic October 2011 fire,” Pendery said.

Other Violations

A week after the fire at Magnablend’s Central Facility, TCEQ conducted a Minor New Source Review investigation at the company’s Powder Facility, also in Waxahachie, and cited several violations there. The agency said the Powder Facility:

• Was blending chemical powders, generating visible dust, without operating a dust collection system. (The system was available but not turned on.) Combustible dust has been cited in some of the nation’s deadliest plant explosions and fires in recent years. The facility turned on the system after being notified during the inspection;

• Illegally emitted amorphous silica and acetaldehyde into the air from Sept. 1, 2010, to Aug. 31, 2011; and.

• Was emitting more than 17 other pollutants, including fly ash and crystalline silica, although it had said in a 2006 permit application that it would “only be handling and emitting gypsum.”

Wyoming Warnings

Unrelated to the Texas operations, Magnablend also received notice in February from Wyoming’s Department of Environmental Quality of four asbestos-related violations during demolition and renovation of a company warehouse in Mills, WY.

The notice said Magnablend had failed to:

• Remove all regulated asbestos containing material (RACM) from the facility;

• Adequately wet the material during stripping;

• Use trained individuals to do the removal and handle the material; and

• Properly dispose of the waste material.

“Normally, the Department and this Division would refer these types of violations to the State Attorney General’s Office for recovery of appropriate penalties,” advised the letter from Steven A. Dietrich, administrator of DEQ’s Air Quality Division, to Pendery.

“However, in this case, I’m issuing this Notice of Violation as a warning and to put you on notice that future violations of the asbestos regulatory requirements will result in enforcement action seeking penalties as settlement.”

Training Activity

DEQ’s report said that two local fire departments had torn out about 200 square feet of asbestos floor tile from the building during a weekend training activity.

“Following this training, Magnablend returned to the facility to find large amounts of all building materials, to include the asbestos containing floor tile scattered throughout the building,” the report said.

The teams that had removed the asbestos and damaged the building were not trained and had dumped the material in a local landfill, the state said.

Magnablend said in a statement that the fire departments had been notified in advance of the asbestos but that the tiles had been damaged during training.

“Unfortunately, Magnablend employees encountered asbestos while cleaning up the warehouse after the fire department training,” said Pendery. “We take employee safety seriously and appreciate the Wyoming DEQ working with us to bring this event to a final resolution.”

   

Tagged categories: Asbestos; Emissions; Health and safety; OSHA; Worker training

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