Today as many people enjoy a holiday season spent with friends and family, I would like to call attention to a recent tragedy that occurred late last week in eastern Ohio. On December 17, 2011, a chemical fire occurred at Heritage-WTI, Inc. which resulted in two workers being seriously burned, one of whom succumbed to his injuries days later. Heritage-WTI, Inc, is hazardous waste storage and processing facility located in East Liverpool, Ohio.
According to company officials a flash fire occurred when workers were splitting a large solid waste drum of hazardous flammable inorganic material into smaller storage drums.
Unfortunately accidents at hazardous waste processing facilities are all too common. The CSB investigated a major fire in 2006 at the Environmental Quality Company (EQ), a hazardous waste facility located in Apex, North Carolina, which resulted in the evacuation of thousands of residents for two days. The CSB’s EQ case study found 21 other fire and chemical release incidents at hazardous waste facilities in the United States that occurred from 2002 – 2007. These incidents resulted in two fatalities, 16 injuries, and eight community evacuations, shelter-in-place events, or transportation disruptions.
The CSB also investigated a 2009 explosion and fire at the Veolia ES Technical Solutions L.L.C. facility in West Carrollton, Ohio. The accident occurred when flammable vapor was released from a waste recycling process, ignited, and violently exploded. The blast seriously injured two workers and damaged 20 nearby residences and five businesses.
As a result of these two investigations, the Chemical Safety Board issued recommendations to the Environmental Technology Council (ETC), a hazardous waste industry trade group. Specifically, one of the recommendations is to petition the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a developer of U.S. fire prevention codes, to issue a standard specific to hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal facilities. The standard would provide guidance to prevent the occurrence of fires, explosions, and releases at these types of facilities. This recommendation has still yet to be implemented.
The second recommendation to ETC was to develop its own guidance document for its members on the safe processing, handling and storage of hazardous waste. Heritage-WTI, Inc as well as all ETC members would receive this document.
It is the CSB’s view that the ETC’s petition to the NFPA will lead to the development of a national standard that will improve safety practices at hazardous waste treatment plants across the country.
The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating serious 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. Visit our website, www.csb.gov.
Link to Veolia Investigation Page: http://www.csb.gov/investigations/detail.aspx?SID=80&Type=2&pg=1&F_All=y
Link to EQ Investigation Page: http://www.csb.gov/investigations/detail.aspx?SID=15&Type=2&pg=1&F_All=y