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Chemical release sends 23 to hospital

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  • Chemical release sends 23 to hospital

    DOVER, Delaware (AP) -- A chemical released into the air from an industrial plant Friday sent 23 people to the hospital and closed some roads, officials said.

    The release of the chemical at Dow Reichhold Specialty Latex was visible around a railroad tanker car parked on the plant site, state police spokesman Cpl. Jeffrey Whitmarsh said.

    The rail car contained styrene, which is potentially flammable and can cause irritation if inhaled, Whitmarsh said.

    Pam Chase told The (Wilmington) News Journal that she could see a "mist across the ground" and a "steam or fog along the tracks."

    "It was a real strong smell of burning plastic," she said.

    John Hughes, secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, said first responders reported that the leak was a result of a defective valve on a railroad tanker car carrying 20,000 pounds of styrene. Officials believed the cause was a buildup of pressure in the tanker, he said.

    "I've been told it's stopped leaking, but it's not capped," Hughes said late Friday. "It's not safe at this point."

    Darrel Cole, spokesman for the Delaware Department of Transportation, said much of Route 13 was closed and traffic was being diverted to Route 1, where tolls were being waived.

    Although residents were not ordered to evacuate, those who wished to leave were directed to Dover High School. No one was at the school late Friday.

    Twenty-three people went to Kent General Hospital for treatment of nausea and headaches, said Pamela Marechi, a hospital spokeswoman. Twenty-one were released.

    Residents within five miles of the plant were urged to stay indoors, turn off air conditioning and close vents into their houses, Whitmarsh said.

    Reichhold site manager Michael Galbus said the company would not make a statement until Saturday.

    Styrene is used by chemical companies that make plastics, synthetic rubber, resins and insulators, according to the Environmental Protection Agency's Web site. Styrene vapor irritates the eyes, the nose, and the throat and can adversely affect the human nervous system.

    Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
    Do a little dance, make a little rum, Italian Ice! Italian Ice!

    Actual lyric: Do a little dance, make a little love, get down tonight, get down tonight.
    (KC & The Sunshine Band "Do A Little Dance")

    My thoughts are mine alone and do not represent the thoughts of any Organization to which I am affiliated.

  • #2
    Emergency Officials Suggesting Evacuations After Chemical Spill

    CHESWOLD (AP/WBOC)- Emergency Officials have asked people living near a chemical plant in Cheswold to evacuate.

    Officials with the Delaware Emergency Management Agency are asking residents within 1,500 feet of the Dow Reichold Specialty Latex plant on Fork Branch Road to evacuate.

    The notice, which is not mandatory, affects about 44 homes, was issued because the internal temperature of the rail car is increasing, said Jamie Turner, director of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency.

    Turner said the increase in heat is related to a natural chemical process called polymerization and that the chemical inside the car is crystallizing. He said the evacuation notice was issued as a precaution because the pressure inside the car could be increasing as well.

    Matt Higgins, an environmental scientist with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, said the situation appeared to have stabilized late Saturday afternoon, but he said it was too soon to say when residents would be allowed back in their homes.

    "It looks like we're moving toward a stable situation," Higgins said.

    "There's no way to inhibit or halt the process," Turner said. "We have a pressure problem inside the car...We don't expect anything to happen, but we want to err on the side of safety."

    No chemicals have been released since around midnight, Turner said.

    Residents who do not leave their homes are asked to stay indoors and keep their windows closed and their air conditioning turned off. If you leave, get to your car quickly and make sure you roll up your windows.

    The Red Cross of Delmarva has set up a shelter for residents at Dover High School. Red Cross officials say the shelter will be open until at least 6 p.m. on Sunday. They say 25 people stayed at the shelter Friday night.

    The release of the chemical Styrene was visible around a rail car parked on the plant site, state police spokesman Cpl. Jeffrey Whitmarsh said. It was first noticed at around 6:30 p.m. Friday, Aug 25. DNREC Secretary John Hughes says a defective valve on the rail car is to blame for the leak.

    The railcar contained 20,000 pounds of Styrene. Styrene is used by chemical companies that make plastics, synthetic rubber, resins and insulators, according to the Environmental Protection Agency's website. Styrene vapors irritate the eyes, the nose and the throat, and can adversely affect the human nervous system.

    At least 23 people were treated and released from the hospital for flu-like symptoms after the leak happened.

    No plant workers were injured, Reichhold site manager Michael Galbus said Saturday.

    Galbus said an inhibitor was added to the tank car several weeks ago at the recommendation of the supplier, Chevron Phillips. He refused to speculate on whether the inhibitor was working properly but said it was meant to prevent polymerization, which officials believe is taking place.

    "The purpose of an inhibitor is to stop a reaction from occurring," Galbus said. Galbus would not say whether Reichhold or Chevron Phillips first raised the question of whether an inhibitor should be added to the tank.

    He also said he did not know how long the tank had been onsite.

    Dave Small, deputy director of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, said to his knowledge, the department was not aware of any problems with the tank car before Friday.

    The Delaware State Police say they were forced to close parts of Route 13. The highway is shut down from Route 42 and Scarborough Road. If you are travelling southbound on Route 13, you will be re-routed on Route 1 at the South Smyrna exit. Northbound travelers will take Route 1 at the North Dover Exit. DelDOT is waiving tolls on Route 1.

    At a gas station Friday night, about a mile from the plant, a state trooper jumped out of his vehicle and chased away a few customers, shouting: "If you can smell that, you need to evacuate."

    http://www.wboc.com/Global/story.asp?S=5328689


    This is the second major incident this year, (which is alot for Kent County, DE!) We had the C5 crash earlier this year.
    Do a little dance, make a little rum, Italian Ice! Italian Ice!

    Actual lyric: Do a little dance, make a little love, get down tonight, get down tonight.
    (KC & The Sunshine Band "Do A Little Dance")

    My thoughts are mine alone and do not represent the thoughts of any Organization to which I am affiliated.

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