Monday, March 2, 2015

Chlorine Related Auto Accident

According to a local television station (WLOX) there was an interesting automobile accident in Gulfport, MS this morning. For some reason (not yet reported) a car ran off the road, crashed through a chain-link fence gate and into a local water works pumping station. If that wasn’t bad enough, it came into contact with the chlorination equipment (probably a chlorine cylinder) and caused a chlorine gas leak.

The report states that three people were taken to the hospital for chemical burns. The injured were apparently the vehicle driver and two good Samaritans that pulled the driver from the car. The chlorine cloud dispersed without further injuries. Other than some local business and road closures, there were no other problems reported.

Looking at a picture accompanying the story, this looks like a fairly standard satellite waterworks facility with a fence surrounding a water tower and the building housing the controls for the water distribution system and chlorination unit. The fence looks to be an industry standard 6 foot chain-link fence with barb-wire outrigger to prevent climb-overs. The access gate was apparently locked with a good chain and padlock (hole in the gate but the lock and chain are still in place). You can’t tell from the photo, but I assume that there was a video surveillance system in place and probably an alarm on the door.

This accident plainly demonstrates how easy it is to breach most security fencing. Even though the vehicle was clearly breaking (skid marks visible on the driveway) it still managed to go through the fence and into the building. If this had been an attack on this facility it couldn’t have been executed much better short of having a bomb in the vehicle.

Clearly, the security at this facility was inadequate to prevent this sort of attack (I know it wasn’t an attack by all accounts, but it went down the way an attack could have). Since this is a water treatment facility and thus exempt from the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) there are no standards for ‘adequate security’ for this type of facility, but I would guess (from looking at dozens of these types of facilities over the last seven years) that this facility was secured as good as any EPA regulated facility of its type and size.

If the water treatment exemption did not exist (and it was removed from at least one draft of HR 4007 that was passed last year), then this facility might have come under the auspices of the CFATS program. It would depend on the amount of chlorine stored/used on site. If there were more than 500 lbs on site at anyone time then the facility would have had to file a Top Screen and may have been subsequently designated a high-risk chemical facility by DHS.

If it had been designated a CFATS covered facility, the demonstratedly inadequate security measures would have been upgraded to meet the requirements of the Risk-Based Performance Standards (RBPS) set out for chemical facilities by the good folks at the Infrastructure Security Compliance Division of DHS. With those in place it would have been extremely unlikely that an errant driver could have accidentally driven into a chlorine storage tank.

1 comment:

Jake Brodsky said...

That grey cloud near the vehicle looks like it might be chlorine. If so, that driver is lucky to be alive (and that photographer ought to be maintaining a greater distance than the picture would suggest).

Remote gaseous chlorine injection is not something that many water utilities like to do --for exactly this sort of reason. Many are turning to less hazardous forms of sanitization, such as using a hypochlorite, UV disinfection, or ozone.

Regulations also require that where large amounts of chlorine are stored (such as one ton containers) that the room bRe sealed and that the scrubber should handle the full discharge of a cylinder and a half (more than that should never occur in normal conditions as there is never more than a mostly empty cylinder and a full cylinder tapped on online)

/* Use this with templates/template-twocol.html */