Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Reader Comments – 07-19-09 – Ammonia Incident

On Sunday morning Scpck posted a comment to Friday’s posting about last week’s fatal anhydrous ammonia accident in South Carolina. Scpck’s comments are posted here in their entirety:
“From what I read and heard the local authorities did try to direct traffic away, but no road block was made for traffic entering from the opposite side of the gas cloud.The OSHA and other Hazmat entities came quite a bit later. Most people did not even know the plant was there, nor what danger existed. It is not listed as a Tier 1 on the Tanner web site and apparently the only safety classes offered were in Georgia 2 years ago. This is NOT a good thing. A mother driving through the vapour DIED leaving two teenage children.”
From the comment about the Tier 1 status, I would bet that Scpck is not a long time reader nor a member of the chemical security committee. That’s fine; I suspect that Scpck is a local looking for answers and searching where-ever the net leads. I am afraid that I have no more answers than their local papers at this point, the investigation is at too early a stage for me to be able to explain much.

Scpck does provide some important information to readers of this blog however, reporting that “Most people did not even know the plant was there, nor what danger existed.” On one hand this statement seems to contradict some of the news reports that came out this weekend where some residents complained of frequent ammonia odors coming from the facility. That isn’t unexpected. Even very small leaks of anhydrous ammonia produce small clouds and ammonia is detectable in very low concentrations; it is a very pungent chemical.

Scpck’s comment is almost certainly more applicable to the larger community rather than to immediate neighbors. With the large anhydrous storage tanks and rail cars on site, there should certainly be concern that a large cloud of anhydrous ammonia could affect the nearby community. While we would certainly expect that Tanner Industries has been in contact with local first responders to coordinate the emergency response, it seems pretty clear that the community has not been included in that emergency response planning.

Trying to get the community to respond properly in an emergency situation always works better if they know what is expected of them. That doesn’t assure proper response, but it does make it more likely.

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