CSB Releasing Final Report on 2016 Kansas Chlorine Release

The release caused more than 140 people, both workers and members of the public, to seek treatment at area hospitals and resulted in shelter-in-place and evacuation orders for thousands of local residents.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board announced it will release its final report Jan. 3 and also a safety video on the chlorine release that occurred at MGPI Processing in Atchison, Kansas, on Oct. 21, 2016. The company produces distilled spirits and specialty wheat proteins and starches; the release occurred when a tanker truck owned and operated by Harcros Chemicals was inadvertently connected to a tank containing incompatible material -- sulfuric acid was accidentally unloaded from the truck into a fixed sodium hypochlorite tank at the plant, and materials combined to produce a cloud of chlorine gas. The release caused more than 140 people, both workers and members of the public, to seek treatment at area hospitals and resulted in shelter-in-place and evacuation orders for thousands of local residents, according to CSB.

Last April, the board released preliminary findings from its ongoing investigation of the release, saying it had identified several shortcomings in the design and labeling of loading stations and in adherence to chemical unloading procedures.

CSB Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland described the accident as "preventable," adding, "Our investigation demonstrates all too clearly that complacency with routine practices and procedures can result in severe consequences. A reaction that produced thousands of pounds of a hazardous chemical had the potential be much more serious – the CSB's aim is to issue clear safety improvements which can be made to similar facilities across the country."

Sutherland and CSB Investigator-in-Charge Lucy Tyler are scheduled to answer media questions about the report on Jan. 3.

CSB in April said it determined that emergency shutdown mechanisms were not in place or were not activated from either a remote location at the facility or in the truck. It found design deficiencies that increased the likelihood of an incorrect connection, such as the close proximity of the fill lines, and unclear and poorly placed chemical labels, and that MGPI and Harcros did not follow internal procedures for unloading operations.

"Unloading activities occur at thousands of facilities across the country every day. This event should serve to remind industry to review their own chemical unloading operations and work with motor carriers to ensure chemicals are unloaded safely," Tyler said.

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