Ruptured Transfer Hose Caused Aug. 11 Chlorine Release at Honeywell Plant in Baton Rouge, CSB Says

A three-person assessment team from the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) said that a ruptured chlorine transfer hose, which was being used to unload a railroad chlorine tank car, resulted in the Aug. 11 chlorine release at the Honeywell International plant in Baton Rouge, La.

CSB lead investigator Lisa Long said Honeywell records indicate the hose which, according to the agency, shows visible signs of being ruptured was installed at the facility in recent weeks. Long said the hose will be tested under a joint agreement with Honeywell.

The chlorine release lasted 45 seconds, according to Long, and during the release 11 contract workers nearby were exposed as they evacuated.

The contractors were decontaminated before being transported to the local hospital for treatment. The contractors were treated at the hospital for their exposure and released the same day.

The incident occurred approximately 24 hours following a news conference in Baton Rouge at which CSB Chairman Carolyn Merritt and Long presented the final CSB investigation report on three Honeywell toxic chemical releases, including a chlorine release in July 2003.

In the 2003 chlorine release, more than 3 1/2 hours elapsed before the chlorine leak could be stopped. CSB says it found numerous shortcomings in Honeywell's chlorine detection and emergency shutdown systems, and the agency in its report made several safety recommendations to prevent a recurrence.

Due to the implementation of improvements recommended by CSB, Long said the Aug. 11 shutdown was rapid after the hose burst without warning.

"Honeywell operators in the control room responded to chlorine detection alarms by pushing the emergency shutoff button, activating shutoff valves on the rail car and on the plant side of the failed hose," Long said. "These new systems, which were not present during the 2003 release, succeeded in sharply reducing what could have become a much bigger release."

Merritt credited Honeywell for installing new equipment based on CSB's preliminary findings while the final recommendations to the company were being drafted.

"We consider any release of chlorine, a highly toxic chemical, to be serious," Merritt said. "However, we are pleased to see that shutdown equipment installed in response to our findings apparently prevented a larger release. It's our hope that all chlorine handlers and producers will review our recommendations in the Honeywell investigation and take similar steps to prevent accidents or limit the damage from ones that do occur."

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