Chemical Tank Explosion Averted in Texas

A chemical storage tank containing acrylic acid overheated at the Rohm and Haas Co. plant in Deer Park, Texas.

Three days after a deadly chemical explosion in Pasadena, a Deer Park, Texas, chemical plant storage tank containing acrylic acid overheated.

Tragedy was averted Wednesday when officials with Rohm and Haas Co. recommended an evacuation within a one-mile radius of its plant.

The all-clear was sounded about seven hours later, after crews cooled the 250,000-gallon container, which had reached a temperature of 290 degrees. The normal temperature range is 84 to 122 degrees.

Company officials said they recommended an evacuation of the area, which encompassed 14 other chemical companies, out of fear the tank would explode.

As a precaution, the Coast Guard restricted traffic on the Houston Ship Channel, which is less than a mile from the plant.

The Federal Aviation Administration also kept aircraft from flying near the plant.

Rohm and Hass' emergency response team cooled the 34-foot-tall, 32-foot-wide storage tank, which contained 80,000 gallons of acrylic acid, by spraying 5,500 gallons per minute of water from seven water monitors.

Officials said a pressure-relief device in the tank was releasing less than 100 pounds of acrylic acid vapor per hour to prevent a pressure buildup in the tank.

Although the company said the fumes were dissipating quickly, it hired industrial hygienists to monitor air in the area.

Acrylic acid is a flammable liquid that can irritate the skin, nose and throat.

It is used to make paint, coatings and super-absorbent material used in baby diapers.

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