First Chemical Corp. will pay the federal government $731,000 in civil penalties for an October 2002 explosion at the company’s Pascagoula plant on Bayou Cassotte that was caused by a dangerous chemical reaction. The company also agreed to correct violations of the Clean Air Act, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. According to the U.S. Chemical Board, the explosion occurred in a chemical distillation tower. The explosion “sent heavy debris over a wide area,” and three workers in the control room were injured by shattered glass, according to the Board’s report.
The explosion occurred in a distillation column that was not in use at the time. Flying debris from the column ruptured a storage tank holding a chemical used to make home laundry detergents and red printing inks, according to news reports. Government officials said that the blast released into the air more than 1,200 pounds of the hazardous chemical mononitrotoluene, MNT, a chemical related to TNT that can be explosive when exposed to high temperatures. Operators thought the process had been shut down weeks earlier. Plant staff did not realize that valves used to shut off steam to the tower had deteriorated, the U.S. Chemical Board’s investigation determined.
Source: Mobile Press Register
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