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Aug 21, 2002

U.S. Chemical Safety Board Launches Full Investigation of St. Louis-Area Chlorine Gas Release

(Washington, DC - August 21, 2002) The U.S. Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) has announced it will conduct a full-scale investigation into the root causes of the three-hour chlorine gas leak at a DPC Enterprises plant in Festus, MO, about 35 miles south of St. Louis.

The decision to launch a detailed investigation follows a preliminary assessment conducted by two CSB investigators who spent several days at the site of the accident, where a chlorine hose connected to a railroad tanker burst. Emergency shut-off valves at the site failed to operate properly. Sixty-three people, including workers and nearby residents, were treated at a local hospital for respiratory problems, with three admitted overnight.

The CSB will study the cause of the hose failure and the reasons why the emergency shut-off system failed to function. The inquiry will include an examination of emergency response and preparedness measures as well as the process safety management systems in place at the DPC plant.

The process where the leak occurred is covered by both the EPA Risk Management Program (RMP) rule and OSHA Process Safety Management (PSM) standard, which require safety management of high hazard chemical processes. Both EPA and OSHA are investigating the accident.

Unlike EPA and OSHA, the CSB is an independent federal agency that does not issue fines or citations. The CSB determines the root causes of accidents and issues safety recommendations to prevent recurrence. These recommendations are directed to industry, labor, professional associations and when appropriate to EPA, OSHA, and other federal bodies.

Chlorine gas can cause serious respiratory and other problems in people and animals, as well as negative effects on plant life that it comes in contact with.

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