CSB Chair: "Urgent Steps" Needed to Improve Safety of Chemical Facilities

Published February 20, 2014

​The U.S. Chemical Safety Board’s (CSB) preliminary research into last month's chemical spill at Freedom Industries indicates a "gap in the regulatory framework" that does not adequately cover above-ground storage tanks, CSB Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso said during his testimony before the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure at a field hearing in Charleston, W.Va. last week. On Jan. 9, a steel tank at Freedom Industries’ facility leaked up to 10,000 gallons of 4-Methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM) near the Elk River, contaminating the water supply for approximately 300,000 West Virginians.

CSB investigators have found that the secondary containment wall surrounding tank 396, the tank that leaked, provided "very little protection" from a possible release.

"Urgent steps are required to significantly improve the safety of facilities that handle hazardous chemicals," Moure-Eraso. "The chemical sector is vital to our economy, yet potentially dangerous to those who live near the thousands of facilities that process or store hazardous chemicals."

Moure-Eraso stated that during its ongoing investigation, CSB will closely examine tank 396; study tank design, construction materials, inspection practices, and state and federal oversight of similar tanks; and examine existing industry best practices related to safety of tanks at facilities. The agency will also examine the response to the leak.

Read Moure-Eraso's full testimony on CSB's website.