Washington, DC, October 6, 2005 - The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) is deploying a five-person assessment team to the site of an explosion and fire at the Formosa Plastics plant in Point Comfort, Texas, on the Texas coast.
According to early media reports, the incident injured several workers and required residents in Point Comfort and nearby Port Lavaca to shelter in place by staying in their homes -- closing windows and shutting off air conditioning systems due to potentially toxic fumes in the area. Reports also indicated that authorities closed roads and Port Lavaca causeway, State Highway 35 and Farm-to-Market Road 1593. The blast occurred about 3:30 p.m., according to witnesses. A company spokesperson was quoted as saying the plant employs 1,100 people, about 500 of whom work on site at any given time.
The CSB team will fly to South Texas tomorrow, Oct. 7, and plans to arrive on site late afternoon or early evening. Investigation team leader Jim Lay will be accompanied by investigators Lisa Long, Rob Hall, Allen Smith, and Katherine Leskin. They will assess the severity of the incident after which the Board will decide whether to begin a formal investigation.
Formosa Plastics Corp. USA is based in Livingston, N.J. It is a plastics and petrochemicals company. Besides Port Comfort, Formosa has plants in Baton Rouge, La., Delaware City, Del., and Illiopolis, Ill. The CSB currently is investigating a serious accident at the company's Illinois site which occurred on April 23, 2004. Five workers were fatally injured and two others were seriously injured when an explosion occurred in a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) production unit. That explosion apparently followed a release of highly flammable vinyl chloride, which ignited. The explosion forced a community evacuation and lighted fires that burned for several days at the plant. Information about that ongoing investigation, as well as all CSB activities, may be found by visiting the web site www.CSB.gov.
The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in safety management systems. The Board does not issue citations or fines but does make safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA. Please visit our website, www.CSB.gov. For more information, contact Sandy Gilmour 202-261-7614, or if no immediate answer, by cell 202-251-5496.