Wednesday, July 16, 2014

CSB: No preventative maintenance at Freedom Industries

In March, I said this about the leaking tanks that caused the huge MCHM mess outside Charleston, WV:
Freedom Industries is likely responsible for the apparent poor state of their tanks -- I wonder if those tanks have ever been pressure checked or what the preventative maintenance logs look like. 
And now, thanks to the Chemical Safety Board, we have some answers (emphasis mine): 
...the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) reported today it has thus far found no record of a formal, industry approved inspection performed on any of the chemical storage tanks at Freedom Industries prior to the massive leak which occurred on January 9, 2014.  Informal inspections may have occurred, preliminary findings indicate, but investigators have found a lack of appropriate engineering inspections with prescribed frequency and rigor of inspections. 
The CSB commissioned an inspection of tank 396 and similar tanks at Freedom Industries, scanning the tank interior and the surrounding topography of the river bank. Investigators oversaw the recent extraction of metal for metallurgical analysis. 
The investigation found that two small holes ranging in size from about 0.4-inch to 0.75-inch in the bottom of the 48,000-gallon tank 396 were caused by corrosion, likely resulting from water leaking through holes in the roof and settling on the tank floor. Furthermore, the CSB inspection found a similar hole penetrating the bottom of nearby tank 397, containing the same chemical at the facility, located in Charleston. Other tanks also showed multiple signs of pitting and metallurgical damage, investigators said. The growing corrosion in these tanks went unnoticed until the bottom of 396 was breached and up to an estimated 10,000 gallons of the chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM), mixed with propylene glycol phenyl ethers, or PPH, made their way through the underlying mixture of soil and gravel under the facility and into the Elk River on January 9, 2014. 
It sounds like Freedom was a relative mess, managerially speaking, and their lack of a rigorous inspection system doesn't shock me a bit. A disappointment. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad to see that the living member of T2's ownership landed on his feet. (/sarcasm).

    Is the lack of acknowledgement of safety or environmental hazards and responsibilities an extra "bonus" for small company functioning, or are there problems at both ends of the size scale (Tesoro and Bayer as counterexamples)? Is there a sour spot for chemical businesses where the company is large enough to have to pay decently while being expected to actually follow safety and environmental regulations and while not being big enough to exert any control over its market or suppliers?

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