Washington, DC, April 8, 2004 - The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) announces it is deploying an investigative team to the site of this morningÂ?s explosions and fire at the Giant Industries refinery near Gallup, New Mexico, west of Albuquerque, to begin an initial examination of the accident. Preliminary reports indicate four workers suffered critical burns.
The explosions were reported to have occurred at about 9 a.m. local time in the alkylation unit of the refinery, which processes volatile hydrocarbons to produce components of gasoline. Hydrofluoric acid, a highly hazardous chemical, is used as a catalyst in the process. All workers were evacuated from the plant, but it is not known whether hydrofluoric acid was released from the unit.
The team will include Board member Rixio Medina, lead investigator David Heller, and several other CSB investigators. The team will arrive at the site on April 9 and begin an assessment of the accident. Depending on the outcome of that preliminary assessment, the Board may proceed with a full investigation leading to a determination of the root causes and issuance of safety recommendations.
Mr. Medina said, "Because of the severity of the explosions and fire and the resulting injuries, we are deploying an investigative team. In addition to our concern for the victims of this accident, the Board has a strong interest in promoting safety in processes that use hydrofluoric acid, a hazardous chemical that can affect the public."
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. Typically, the investigations involve extensive witness interviews, examination of physical evidence, and chemical and forensic testing. 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. The Board designates formal responses to its recommendations as acceptable or unacceptable, open or closed. Further information about the CSB is available from www.csb.gov.
For more information, contact Daniel Horowitz, 202-261-7613 / 202-441-6074 (cell) or Sandy Gilmour Communications, 202-261-7614 / 202-251-5496 (cell).