A chlorine gas leak sends 6 workers to the hospital
Posted: Oct 10, 2016 7:52 PM EST Updated: Oct 10, 2016 7:58 PM EST
by Adrianna Garcia, Digital Multimedia Journalist
Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating a chlorine gas leak at the Formosa Plastics Corporation plant in Point Comfort, Texas, which injured six workers last week.
Workers at the Formosa Plastic Plant were performing a routine maintenance check around 10:30 last Wednesday morning when the gas leaked.
According to a representative we spoke with, a total of fifteen workers were impacted.
Three received treatment and six others were transported to a nearby hospital.
Formosa Plastics did not say the extent of the injuries, but all workers have been released.
Formosa Plastics hit with $241,013 state fine
By Gayle S. Putrich
Formosa Plastics Corp. USA is facing a hefty proposed fine from the state of Delaware for allegedly mishandling hazardous waste at its Delaware City, Del., PVC plant.
The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control proposed the $241,013 fine on Sept. 27. The company is currently reviewing the paperwork for a timely response, Formosa spokesman Steve Rice told Plastics News on Sept. 28, in an interview from the company’s U.S. headquarters in Livingston, N.J.
Formosa has 30 days to review the violations from a June plant inspection and proposed fine and respond to the state.
The seven violations range from a failure to post a “no smoking” sign near ignitable waste to a failure to meet recycling targets for PVC solids and to label unrecycled material as hazardous waste.
According to the documents, as long as at least 75 percent of the “PVC solids referred to as BB’s … which are considered byproducts” generated annually at the resin plant are recycled, it is not considered hazardous solid waste. A January 2015 inventory shows 193,800 pounds of PVC solids were on-site, according to the state and 104,703 pounds were recycled that year.
“As Formosa failed to achieve the 75 percent recycling rate, the remaining 89,097 pounds of byproduct (approximately 71 super sacks) became a solid waste on Jan. 1, 2016, and all applicable RCRA requirements became applicable. At the time of the assessment, the observed super sacks of BB’s were not labeled as hazardous waste,” the penalty assessment says.
Failing to move the more than 89,000 pounds of waste offsite within 90 days is also a violation, according to the documents.
Formosa’s Delaware City facility is already on the federal government’s radar, with a new investigation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency launched about a year ago into possible groundwater contamination from the 400-acre PVC plant.
Groundwater, used locally for drinking water and agriculture, was found to be contaminated with chemicals, including ethylene dichloride, earning the Delaware City PVC plant a spot on the federal Superfund list of most contaminated sites in 1983. The plant was built in 1966 by Stauffer Chemical Co., which used unlined earthen lagoons and pits to dispose of PVC waste and sludge. Stauffer sold the plant to Formosa in May 1981 but Stauffer is still responsible for the groundwater contamination and cleanup.
In 2013, Formosa was fined nearly $1.5 million by the U.S. EPA for failing to install more than 8,000 pieces of leak detection and repair equipment at its plastics and chemical plant in Point Comfort, Texas.
Separate incidents, same plant: Texas workers exposed to gases
Separate chemical exposures recently occurred on the same day at a Texas plastics plant. A contractor and two employees were taken to hospitals after the two incidents. The hospital visits were said to be precautionary measures, though the effects of chemical exposures can show up some time after the initial contact.
All three individuals were working in the chlor/alkali production unit of Formosa Plastics Corp. in Victoria. In one incident, chlorine gas vapor was inhaled by the two employees, who were taken to a hospital in Victoria after being examined by the company's medical staff. The source of the gas leak was still under investigation as of Oct. 8.
In a separate incident, the contract worker was exposed to sulfuric acid. The extent of the exposure was not disclosed in a local news report. The contractor was taken to a hospital in Galveston for treatment. That leak was also under investigation.
The risk of gas exposure is very real in multiple industries throughout Texas. Gas exposure can cause a variety of health issues, including respiratory problems and skin ailments. Companies that deal in dangerous chemicals have an obligation to protect employees and contractors from unreasonable risk of injury. That means workers must be provided with the proper training and equipment, and dangerous chemicals must be properly handled and stored.
Earlier this year, we discussed the effects of two separate gas exposures in San Marcos. One man died, and another was injured.
When workers are injured because of their employer's failure to provide a reasonably safe work environment, the employer needs to be held accountable. A workers' compensation attorney with experience in personal injury claims can assess the facts of a particular case and help the injured worker obtain due compensation.
Our Operations - Point Comfort, Texas
Our Point Comfort site consists of sixteen production units and a variety of support facilities at its nearly 2,500-acre petrochemical complex.
The site's initial VCM/PVC plant went online in 1983. An additional investment of $1.5 billion in 1994 added several more operating units -- Olefins, LLDPE, HDPE, Polypropylene, Chlor-alkali, Ethylene Dichloride, power co-generation (steam and electricity) and a new wastewater treatment facility. At the time, this expansion was the largest one-time, private investment in the state of Texas.
In 1998, the site initiated a second major expansion project. That $900 million investment added a second Olefins plant, a second HDPE plant and a second polypropylene plant. Environmental protection was an important factor in equipment design. While increasing production capacity by 60%, the site was able to continue operating under the same water permit restrictions granted in 1993. In addition, significant production expansions and upgrades were added in 2002. The site operates an extensive water-reuse program.
The new Specialty PVC production plant has started up and is being optimized. Also, the new Circulating Fluidized Bed (CFB) energy unit has started up and has been fully converted to clean-burning natural gas. The CFB plant is providing reliable, highly energy-efficiency steam and electricity.
Meanwhile, we've begun our next major production capacity expansion, which will add a third olefins unit, a propane dehydrogenation (PDH) unit, a LDPE resin plant, another HDPE resin plant and an additional polypropylene (PP) line.
In The Community
Formosa Plastics' Point Comfort site's employees contribute their time and resources to local education and community events, including school, civic, cultural, municipal, and youth programs. Some of these programs include: Boy Scouts, Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce, Calhoun County ISDPartners in Education, Girl Scouts, Lions Club, Rotary, South Texas Blood and Tissue Center, United Way and the YMCA.
Each fall the site sponsors the Formosa Plastics United Way Golf Tournament. In 2015, the tournament raised $120,000 (photo at left) to support United Way efforts and programs in both Victoria and Calhoun Counties.