I was watching the news this morning about the large chemical plant fire in Waxahachi, TX. It got me thinking – I seem to remember several other chemical plant fires recently. A quick google search turned up these:
1/30/2011 Spartanburg, SC
2/8/2011 Belvieu, TX
3/13/2011 Middleton, MA
Four employees are reported injured following an explosion and fire at a Middleton chemical plant.
3/22/2011 Louisville, KY
Nichols and Medina worked in the furnace department and were only 25 feet away when it exploded. They received third-degree burns over 90 percent of their bodies.
4/23/2011 Winton Hills, OH
Scanner reports indicate that the building may contain Methylate, a compound of methyl alcohol and a base.
5/28/2011 Hudson, NC
A six-alarm fire burned in the Caldwell County plant throughout the afternoon, forcing a number of people to evacuate their homes and businesses for a short time. Highway 321 was also shut down for several hours on Saturday.
6/14/2011 New Iberia, LA
6/19/2011 Camden, NJ
Camden firefighters are battling a six-alarm fire at a vacant plant on the 1700 block of Federal Street.
6/21/2011 St. Louis, MO
The company says its solvent distribution products include glycol ethers, alcohol, aliphatic hydrocarbons, alkalis, aromatic hydrocarbons, chlorinated solvents, acids, glycol ether esters, surfactants, glycols and glycerins, plasticizers and esters.
7/3/2011 Wickliffe, OH
Officials say the fire may have been related to a highly flammable gas that is a by-product of the chemical used at the plant.
7/7/2011 Grund County, IL
7/7/2011 Irving, TX
7/18/2011 Pearland, TX
9/23 /2011 Oakland, CA
These are just a few of the fires involving chemical plants this year. For current situations involving hazmat situations there is a map. It is updated on a regular basis.
In some ways I feel relief. All of these incidences and just a few deaths. No civilian deaths were reported in these incidences. All of us live surrounded by plants that produce and use hazardous chemicals. Large trucks filled with these chemicals are on every major highway. Is this just good luck? Is enough being done to ensure our safety? The website for US Chemical Safety Board is http://www.csb.gov/. They do not investigate every chemical plant fire. They produce educational safety materials that are freely distributed. They only make recommendations based on their investigations. The EPA can issue fines. So can state and local work place safety regulatory agencies. Every state has their own bureaucracy for handling that.
Maybe because of the amount of chemicals used by the United States this is an acceptable risk to maintain our lifestyle. Is anyone studying ways to replace these chemicals with a non-hazardous alternative? Is there a simple change that could be made to eliminate some of these chemicals? Is anybody doing research? Is there a place where people can go and look to see if their houses are within a certain distance of a chemical plant? What about data concerning these accidents – is it collected anywhere so that people could look and use that in their decision-making process on where they live?
In every one of these cases people were advised to stay indoors, but there really was no danger. How lucky is that? Are there safety measures in place to limit the amount of chemical released into the air after a fire?
I have questions but few answers unfortunately. I will do more research. In the meantime I will pray that no one dies in the chemical plant in TX.