CSB Concludes Field Phase of T2 Blast Investigation in Jacksonville

Investigators from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board today concluded the initial field investigation of the fatal accident at T2 Laboratories Inc. Among investigators' findings thus far is that 33 people were injured--more than double what was known immediately after the accident Dec. 19, when a massive explosion and fire at the company's chemical plant in Jacksonville, Fla., caused structural damage to offsite buildings resulting in flying and falling debris. The team plans to return to Washington, D.C., later today to continue the investigation of the causes of the accident.

CSB says the explosion resulted in the death of four workers; preliminary findings indicate that the accident occurred as a result of a runaway chemical reaction during the production of a gasoline additive called methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl (MCMT or Ecotane®). The loss of control of the reaction probably occurred during the first step of the process where more than half a ton of metallic sodium was reacted in a steel vessel with other raw materials, producing hydrogen gas as a byproduct, the agency says.

According to CSB, the reactor eventually overpressured and ruptured at a pressure of several thousand pounds per square inch. The contents of the reactor immediately ignited, creating a fireball and mushroom cloud rising approximately 2,000 feet high. Initial media reports of 14 injuries did not count individuals who sought medical attention on their own, CSB found.

T2 is a small company with about a dozen employees and the single production site in Jacksonville. Most of the injuries occurred off-site when a powerful blast wave swept through surrounding businesses; only nine people were at the T2 site when the accident occurred.

CSB Supervisory Investigator Robert Hall, P.E., said, "We will conduct laboratory testing to quantify the amount of heat and pressure released by the reaction. Our goal is to discover what went wrong on December 19 and to prevent a similar accident from happening again." CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems. The Board does not issue citations or fines but does make safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA. For more information, visit CSB's Web site, www.csb.gov or contact Public Affairs Specialists Hillary Cohen at (202) 261-3601 or Jennifer Jones at (202) 261-3603.

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