CSB Continues Barton Solvents Explosion Investigation

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board reports that it is proceeding with its assessment of the explosions and fire at Barton Solvents in Valley Center, Kansas, north of Wichita, with an investigative team returning to the accident site today to continue collecting and analyzing evidence. Barton Solvents packages, stores, and delivers solvents and other chemical products.

Shortly after 9 a.m. on Tuesday, July 17, 2007, explosions and fire erupted in the outdoor tank storage area of the facility. The outdoor "tank farm" contained approximately 40 tanks with capacities ranging from 3,000 to 20,000 gallons.

At the time of the accident a tanker truck containing varnish-makers and painters (VM&P) naphtha was being offloaded and pumped into a 15,000-gallon storage tank at the facility--VM&P naphtha is classified as a flammable liquid by the National Fire Protection Association and is used widely in the paintings and coatings industry.

CSB investigators first arrived at the facility on July 19, 2007, to begin assessing the accident and examining the site. According to a number of eyewitness interviews, CSB says, the VM&P naphtha was being pumped to an aboveground storage tank that subsequently exploded and launched into the air, creating a large fireball. The accident led to the evacuation of thousands of residents, and at least one home and a nearby business suffered structural damage from flying debris from the various explosions. The tank farm was completely destroyed.

"The investigative team will be examining the tanks that failed and released their contents during the explosions and fire," said CSB Lead Investigator Randy McClure. "We plan to examine the pressure relief systems, tank design, and facility configuration placing the tanks in the single spill containment. It is unfortunate that an explosion in one partially filled tank could result in a serious threat to the plant workers and nearby community."

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