CSB Proceeding with Barton Solvents Explosions and Fire Assessment, Investigative Team Returning to Site Today

August 7, 2007

Washington, DC, August 7, 2007 - The U.S. Chemical Safety Board is proceeding with its assessment of the explosions and fire at Barton Solvents in Valley Center, Kansas, north of Wichita, with investigators returning to the accident site this week to gather further information.

Shortly after 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, July 17, 2007, explosions and fire erupted in the outdoor tank storage area of the facility. The outdoor "tank farm" contained approximately 40 tanks with capacities ranging from 3,000 to 20,000 gallons.

At the time of the accident a tanker truck containing varnish-makers and painters (VM&P) naphtha was being offloaded and pumped into a 15,000-gallon storage tank at the facility. VM&P naphtha is classified as a flammable liquid by the National Fire Protection Association and is used widely in the paintings and coatings industry.

CSB investigators first arrived at the facility on July 19, 2007, to begin assessing the accident and examining the site. According to a number of eyewitness interviews, the VM&P naphtha was being pumped to an aboveground storage tank that subsequently exploded and launched into the air, creating a large fireball. The accident led to the evacuation of thousands of residents, and at least one home and a nearby business suffered structural damage from flying debris from the various explosions. The tank farm was completely destroyed.

The investigative team returned to Kansas today and will continue collecting and analyzing evidence. CSB Lead Investigator Randy McClure said, "The investigative team will be examining the tanks that failed and released their contents during the explosions and fire. We plan to examine the pressure relief systems, tank design, and facility configuration placing the tanks in the single spill containment." He added, "It is unfortunate that an explosion in one partially filled tank could result in a serious threat to the plant workers and nearby community."

Barton Solvents packages, stores, and delivers solvents and other chemical products. The company also has distribution locations in Iowa and Wisconsin.

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 regulations, industry standards, and 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. You are invited to visit the CSB website, www.csb.gov for more background on the agency.

For more information, contact: Public Affairs Specialist Jennifer Jones at (202) 261-3603.


Back to news