Washington, DC, August 12, 2005 - A three-person assessment team from the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) said that a ruptured chlorine transfer hose, which was being used to unload a railroad chlorine tank car, resulted in the chlorine release yesterday morning at the Honeywell International plant in Baton Rouge, LA. Investigators Lisa Long, Allen Smith, and Katherine Leskin conducted interviews with employees today and will continue their work on Saturday.
Lead Investigator Long said that Honeywell records indicate the hose - which shows visible signs of being ruptured - was installed at the facility in recent weeks. Ms. Long said the hose will be tested under a joint agreement with Honeywell. She said the chlorine release lasted 45 seconds. During the release, eleven contract workers nearby were exposed as they evacuated. The contractors were decontaminated before being transported to the local hospital for treatment. The contractors were treated at the hospital for their exposure and released the same day.
The incident occurred approximately 24 hours following a news conference in Baton Rouge at which CSB Chairman Carolyn Merritt and Lead Investigator Long presented the final CSB Investigation Report on three Honeywell toxic chemical releases, including a chlorine release in July 2003. In that incident, more than three and one-half hours elapsed before the chlorine leak could be stopped. The CSB found numerous shortcomings in HoneywellÃ??s chlorine detection and emergency shutdown systems. The CSB made several safety recommendations to prevent a recurrence.
Investigator Long said that this time, owing to improvements recommended by the CSB, the shutdown was rapid after the hose burst without warning. Ms. Long said, "Honeywell operators in the control room responded to chlorine detection alarms by pushing the emergency shutoff button, activating shutoff valves on the rail car and on the plant side of the failed hose. These new systems, which were not present during the 2003 release, succeeded in sharply reducing what could have become a much bigger release."
CSB Chairman Carolyn Merritt credited Honeywell for installing new equipment based on the CSBÃ??s preliminary findings while the final recommendations to the company were being drafted. "We consider any release of chlorine, a highly toxic chemical, to be serious," Chairman Merritt said. "However, we are pleased to see that shutdown equipment installed in response to our findings apparently prevented a larger release. It's our hope that all chlorine handlers and producers will review our recommendations in the Honeywell investigation and take similar steps to prevent accidents or limit the damage from ones that do occur."
Chairman Merritt said, "We are concerned about the cause of the hose failure. In 2002 the Board investigated an extremely serious chlorine release in Festus, Missouri, that also involved a chlorine transfer hose rupture. When shutdown systems failed in that event, 48,000 pounds of chlorine were released over three and one-half hours. Because of the hazards of chlorine, it is extremely important to maintain the integrity of emergency equipment and all critical transfer equipment."
The full investigation reports for both the previous Honeywell incident and the chlorine release from DPC Enterprises in Festus, Missouri, may be found at 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, cell 202-251-5496 or Lindsey Heyl, 202-261-3614, cell 703-303-7499.