Details On Deadly Blast Show Lack Of Chemical Inventory Reporting

Dec. 14, 2020
Chemical that caused the blast wasn't on the Tier II Emergency and Hazardous Chemical Inventory

More details about the Dec. 8 explosion that killed one worker and injured three others at the Optima Chemicals Company in Belle, West Virginia, are surfacing.

According to company officials, the chemical involved in the explosion -- sodium dichloroisocyanurate dihydrate -- had not been used prior to that day. The chemical is regularly used in swimming pools for “chlorination” disinfection purposes.

Company officials say this chemical was not added to the Tier ll Emergency and Hazardous Chemical Inventory, since it was not used or processed at the facility prior to the explosion.

Under Tier II, company officials say the facility is required to provide notification of a change of regulated operations within 30 days after a change in the process occurred.

An earlier story from the Charleston Gazette-Mail notes that “An emergency and hazardous chemical inventory that Optima Belle LLC submitted to the West Virginia Emergency Management Division, as required by the division for a reporting period spanning all of 2019, lists 18 chemicals, half of which were listed as explosive or flammable.”

Methanol was one of the flammable chemicals. Also present in the fire was a chlorinated dry bleach product (CDB 63) that emergency responders said was not listed at all.

Preliminary information indicates a 1,200-gallon metal dryer became overpressurized during a chemical drying product operation, according to Optima. The material in the dryer was a compound used for sanitation.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail story added, “We asked why it wasn’t on the disclosure, and their response was, ‘Well, we had just gotten the chemical. It was our first procedure,’” said C.W. Sigman, director of emergency management for Kanawha County. “It was very much like, ‘What did you expect? We just started.’”

Sigman said a Chemours site fire brigade identified the presence of CDB 63 and methanol at the incident for other responders when they arrived.

A recent Process Safety With Trish & Traci podcast -- “Understand the Importance of Partnering With First Responders” -- featured Brooklyn, Ohio, fire fighter/inspector Bryan Suesse. He candidly spoke of the issues his department faces with incidents at chemical plants. He offered advice as to what chemical facilities should do to help first responders better protect themselves and others from risk and also most effectively deal with the specific fire.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is investigating the incident, as is the U.S. Chemical Safety Board and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Read the entire Charleston Gazette-Mail article here. And you can listen to the podcast or read the transcript here. 

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