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February 15, 2014

Ignoring safety procedures results in ammonia leak

PRYOR, OK — Investigation is still underway concerning an ammonia leak in Pryor’s MidAmerica Industrial Park.

Officials from Pryor Chemical Co. were present at Thursday’s meeting of the Local Emergency Planning Commission to discuss last week’s chemical leak.

“There were some lessons learned, some things we did well and some things we can do better,” said Derek Blackshire, a contractor from Pryor Chemical, who added that the formal investigation is still underway.

“Maintenance crew was replacing a valve on the line. It could have been any line, it just happened to be ammonia. The standard safety procedure, such as lock-out, tag-out and isolation were not followed,” said Blackshire.

The discrepancy resulted in anhydrous ammonia “spewing out of the line, into the maintenance worker’s face.”

The duration of the leak, he said, was approximately 10 minutes.

“That individual was lifeflighted to a hospital in Tulsa with first degree burns,” said Blackshire.

He explained that anhydrous ammonia vaporizes and forms a cloud. Due to the location of the plant and the direction of the wind, the cloud headed toward Highway 412B. Fire hoses were used to dispel the clouds, Blackshire said.

“The plant did call 911 for support. And other plants were notified of the situation,” said Blackshire.

Several entities represented at the meeting asked about an alert

system throughout MidAmerica Industrial Park that could be used in this type of situation.

The group discussed the Code Red, or reverse 911 phone call system, could be used, but that it is not ideal for these time-sensitive events.

Mayes County Emergency Management Director Johnny Janzen said utilizing the outdoor siren that is currently there is a good option for park-wide alert.

A representative of RAE Corporation said the company did “shelter-in place before being told to evacuate.

“This caused a bottleneck in traffic. We need an alternate way out,” he said.

A representative of MAIP said there “is another road, it’s just not great.” He said the road is in rough shape, locked and gated. He said the park is looking into opening access to the road, but that the security of water storage tanks would have to be protected.

The safety representative of Solae said each plant should develop its own emergency response plan.

The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality was on-site within two hours of the incident

and the Environmental Protection Agency was there the following

morning according to Blackshire.

This incident prompted another discussion about mutual aid from one plant to another.

“Pryor Chemical did not have a ton of staff on-site. There are trained people in MAIP. Could they create some sort of mutual aid agreement to help each

other out in emergency situations?” said Mike Dunham, LEPC Chairman, citing examples of different entities that have created this sort of unified volunteer response team.

While the error of the maintenance employees is still under investigation, LEPC will continue working on a park-wide alert system.

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