Preliminary findings from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board’s (CSB) investigation into the 2016 chemical release at a Kansas processing plant identify shortcomings in adherence to chemical unloading procedures and the design and labeling of the plant’s loading stations as factors contributing to the accident. According to CSB, the chemical release occurred when sulfuric acid was inadvertently unloaded from a tanker truck into a fixed tank containing sodium hypochlorite. More than 140 people, including workers and members of the public, sought medical attention as a result of the chlorine gas produced by combining the two materials. A short video on CSB’s website shows the dense green cloud that traveled from the facility toward a populated area.
On Oct. 21, 2016, a delivery truck carrying sulfuric acid was incorrectly connected to the plant loading area’s sodium hypochlorite fill line, which looked similar and was located in close proximity to the line used to transfer sulfuric acid. CSB’s investigation found that emergency shutdown mechanisms were not in place or were not actuated from a remote location at the facility or in the truck. Design deficiencies such as the close proximity of the fill lines increased the likelihood of an incorrect connection, CSB noted. In addition, chemical labels were unclear and poorly placed.
“Unloading activities occur at thousands of facilities across the country every day,” said Lucy Tyler, CSB’s investigator-in-charge. “This event should serve to remind industry to review their own chemical unloading operations and work with motor carriers to ensure chemicals are unloaded safely.”
Read more on CSB’s website.