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Lightning Sparks Fatal Paint Plant Fire

Friday, May 18, 2012

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Cleanup efforts and investigations continue at an old Rohm and Haas coatings plant outside Philadelphia, where lightning torched two massive chemical tanks, triggering a three-alarm blaze.

A veteran fire official working the scene fell ill there and died several hours later of cardiac arrest.

 Police Fire Capt. Dave Wintz died of a heart attack after the three-alarm blaze.

 Bristol Fire Company

Police Fire Capt. Dave Wintz died of a heart attack after the three-alarm blaze.

The blaze at Dow Chemical’s Rohm and Haas Bristol Plant broke out about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday (May 16), when two storage tanks full of chemicals were apparently struck during an intense lightning storm that swept through the area.

Bristol Police Fire Capt. Dave Wintz, 65, was directing traffic at the scene when he fell ill and left. A short time later, Wintz suffered a fatal heart attack, Deputy Chief Francis Hufnell said Friday (May 18).

Wintz had been with the Bristol fire company for about four years and had spent nearly 50 years in firefighting, Hufnell said.

“It’s a great loss for the community,” Hufnell said.

Investigations Underway

Local authorities and Dow Chemical Co. are investigating the blaze, which took firefighters four hours to bring under control. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not have jurisdiction over state and municipal workers, a spokeswoman said.

Dow Chemical said in a statement that the holding tanks contained ethyl acrylate and butyl acrylate used in making acrylic coating products. The company would not disclose the size of the tanks. Local news said the fire blew the lid off one tank.

 The Philadelphia-area complex, which dates to 1919, produces acrylics for Dow Coating Materials.

 Dow Chemical Co.

The Philadelphia-area complex, which dates to 1919, produces acrylics for Dow Coating Materials. Rohm and Haas operated the plant until 2009, when Dow acquired that company. Arkema Inc. also operates an acrylic resins manufacturing operation on the site.

Drainage dikes around the tanks captured chemicals that spilled during the fire, and onsite emergency response personnel were still pumping out the rest of the material into containers on Friday, the company said.

Raising a Stink

Dow said both chemicals “hold a low-odor threshold and may cause temporary irritant effects.”

Local communities, however, said the blaze blanketed the region with a stench that turned the local borough into a ghost town the next day. Schools and stores were closed for the day, and mail service was cancelled.

Residents across the Delaware River in New Jersey also complained of smells in the air.

“Odors may persist until the material is remediated from the site,” Dow said Friday. “Continual air monitoring is taking place.”

Teams from Dow’s Emergency Services Group and other divisions “are working around the clock to ensure the safety of the site and community.” A hotline was set up for site updates: 215-781-4600.

About the Site

The 880-acre complex has been in operation since 1919. Rohm and Haas Company operated the site until 2009, when the company was purchased by Dow.

Today, the facility produces products for Dow Coating Materials, employing170 people in two manufacturing units and 80 people in an administrative building.

 Two storage tanks of coatings chemicals were set ablaze when lightning hit the plant about 3:30 a.m.


Two storage tanks of coatings chemicals were set ablaze when lightning hit the plant about 3:30 a.m.

The site is also occupied by Arkema Inc., which purchased an acrylic resins manufacturing operation from Rohm and Haas in 1998.

A business center elsewhere on the site includes an industrial park with several buildings that are home to companies involved in research and development, warehouse, light manufacturing and retail commerce.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Chemical Plants; Dow Chemical Company; Raw materials

Comment from Rudy Caparros, (12/12/2012, 2:52 PM)

HazMat Experts and Firefighters petition Dow Chemical and Union Pacific for safe rail tank cars transporting gas chlorine. Secondary containment is a necessary improvement that must be implemented. See--PETITION C KIT for First Responders Comments.

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