Board Members To Brief Mississippi Community on First Chemical Plant Explosion

January 10, 2003

(Washington, DC - January 10, 2003) Members of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board will conduct a community meeting 10 a.m. Wednesday, January 15, at Pascagoula (Miss.) City Hall to brief officials and the public on the explosion and fire at the nearby First Chemical plant that occurred last October 13.

A press conference will immediately follow the meeting, at approximately 11:30 a.m, also at City Hall, 603 Watts Ave., Pascagoula.

The explosion occurred in a chemical distillation tower and sent out heavy debris over a wide area. No one was seriously injured or killed in the incident -- which occurred early on a Sunday morning -- but CSB staff noted that the incident was a "close call" in that falling metal could have caused the release of deadly gases had it struck certain nearby storage tanks. Shrapnel did penetrate one nitrotoluene storage tank at the site, igniting a fire that burned for several hours.

Board Member Dr. Gerald Poje will chair the meeting and will be joined by Board Member John Bresland and lead investigator Stephen Wallace. Wallace will present the facts as known to date and discuss safety issues that will be reviewed during the remainder of the investigation. A final Board report on the incident is expected by next summer.

The CSB is the independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents and hazards, and making safety recommendations to industry, labor, government agencies such as EPA and OSHA. The CSB does not issue fines or citations or apportion responsibility for accidents. The Board's mission is to save lives by preventing future accidents. For information about the CSB, including past investigations and photos and biographies of the Board Members, please visit our web site at

For further information about the meeting contact Sandy Gilmour Communications at (202) 261-7614 or (202) 251-5496 (cell).


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