Posted by: Lawyer Sanders | October 6, 2009

Kentucky environmental attorney Sanders says Indspec Chemical is facing $150,000 in civil penalties for release of oleum to atmosphere near Pittsburgh.

Indspec Chemical Corp. faces more than $150,000 in state environmental and federal workplace safety fines for the leak in Petrolia, Pennnsylvania in October 2008.  Oleum leaked when a transfer tank overflowed because its pump was connected to an outlet without an automatic shut-off valve.

 Oleum is a harsh reagent, and is highly corrosive.  Oleum is extremely hygroscopic and must be diluted only with approximately 96 % sulfuric acid and not with water (you get a violent reaction!).

Oleum forms sulfuric acid when exposed to air and the cloud forced 2,500 people from their homes for a day. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board says Indspec workers often used the outlet without an automatic shut-off valve to save time on weekends, when fewer workers were present.

Indspec is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum Corporation, and is the world’s largest resorcinol producer and the only commercial resorcinol producer in the United States. INDSPEC manufactures resorcinol, resorcinol-based resins and other resorcinol derivatives. INDSPEC also sells high  grade sodium sulfite and sodium sulfate.

Resorcinol is commonly used in manufacturing tires and rubber products, high performance wood adhesives, fire retardant plastic additives, and UV light stabilizers. Resorcinol is also used as a chemical intermediate in the manufacture of dyes and dyestuffs, pharmaceuticals, agricultural chemicals, plasticizers and polyurethane chain extenders.

 Indspec is a Responsible Care company.  The term “Responsible Care company” refers to members of the American Chemistry Council, which, as part of their obligations under Responsible Care, submit annual performance data that are made publicly available on the Responsible Care website.  

I suppose Indspec is now going to purchase that automatic shutoff valve.  Mark this one down as a penny saved, many dollars wasted on civil penalties and fines.

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