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Axiall Plant Fined $25,500 After Gas Leak

By Staff | Dec 7, 2016

KENT – An August chlorine leak at the Axiall Corp.’s Natrium plant that forced hundreds of residents from their homes and sent two employees to the hospital, will cost the company $25,500 in workplace safety fines issued by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

The Aug. 27 leak occurred when chlorine gas spilled from a leaking tank car at the plant site in Marshall County. The resulting chemical cloud forced hundreds from their homes in the areas of Kent, Fish Creek, Proctor and New Martinsville, as well as locations in Monroe County. Portions of W.Va. 2 and Ohio 7 also were shut down for hours as the cloud dissipated.

According to AP, Westlake Chemical Corp. bought the plant in September for $3.8 billion, and the citations were issued in November. Company officials were unavailable for comment.

OSHA officials said three citations involved rules for safely managing hazardous chemicals while a fourth was for communicating such hazards to employees.

A preliminary report on the leak issued in October by the National Transportation Safety Board described a crack on one end of the tank car that leaked. The NTSB was the lead investigator for spill that released 17,000 gallons of chlorine at the Natrium chemical facility. During the two and half hours after the crack developed, the entire 90-ton load of chlorine released from the crack to form a large vapor cloud that migrated southward and westward from the Axiall facility along the Ohio River Valley. The company said hazmat crews evaluated the railcar and area affected by the leak, which authorities estimated to be approximately 26 miles.

After the chemical release, five Axiall Corp. and three contract employees were treated for exposure injuries and released, while two people were taken to an area hospital. Plants in the wake of the gas cloud were affected from Proctor to Hannibal. The report said no water contamination was reported.

The Natrium facility experienced another chlorine emission Oct. 8 through a scrubber. The company said this emission was identified and stopped. No public emergency response or action was required.

An environmental report about the incident was filed.

No employees were injured, but one contractor reported inhalation symptoms and was treated with oxygen at the plant’s medical office, released and returned to work. The scrubber system is being analyzed to determine a cause for the emission, the company said.

The Natrium plant employs several hundred workers. The facility produces chemicals, primarily chlorine, but also caustic soda, muriatic acid and calcium hypochlorite.