October, 2006

This is a repeating event

200605OctAll DayEq Hazardous Waste Plant Explosion 2006Environmental Quality Co. Apex (US-NC) Origin: CSB Lessons:Asset integrity,Emergency Preparedness,Stakeholder EngagementIndustry:Waste TreatmentCountry:United StatesLanguage:ENLoC:Fire exposure

Summary

At 9:38 pm on October 5, 2006, a citizen driving past the EQ facility called 911 to report a haze with a ‘strong chlorine smell’ The Apex 911 center dispatched emergency personnel to investigate.

Responding Apex Fire Department personnel discovered a chemical cloud coming from one of several businesses on Investment Boulevard. The Apex Fire Chief, acting as the Incident Commander (IC), sent two firefighter reconnaissance teams in personal protective equipment to investigate the source of the cloud.

Firefighters located a small ‘sofa-size’ fire in one of the hazardous waste bays at the EQ facility. Within minutes, the fire spread to the flammable liquid storage area, causing 55-gallon drums of flammable hazardous waste to explode and sending fireballs hundreds of feet into the air. The hazardous waste building ultimately collapsed (cover photograph).

During the incident, about 30 people (including 13 first responders) sought medical attention at local hospitals for respiratory distress and nausea. Some were treated; none was admitted. .

KEY ISSUES:
• FACILITY FIRE DETECTION
• FACILITY FIRE PROTECTION
• EMERGENCY PLANNING

ROOT CAUSES:
1. The EQNC hazardous waste building was not equipped with fire or smoke detection sensors, automated fire suppression equipment, or fire barriers.
2. EQNC had not provided the fire department or county emergency agency with written information on the types, quantities, and locations of the hazardous materials in the facility prior to the incident.


Image credit: CSB

Origin

CSBUS Chemical Safety Board

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