Axiall confirms toxic chemicals released in explosion

By By Frank DiCesare / American Press

Axiall officials this week filed a follow-up report with the state’s Department of Environmental Quality, announcing that the company’s Dec. 20 plant explosion and fire released toxic chemicals into the atmosphere.

The report, known as an Unauthorized Discharge Notification Report, lists hydrochloric acid, ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride monomer as chemicals that were “released as a result of the unauthorized discharge.”

The report goes on to state: “A detailed calculation is needed to determine the final quality of chemicals discharged during the event since HCL (hydrochloric acid) is generated by the combustion of EDC (ethylene dichloride) and VCM (vinyl chloride monomer).”

Axiall’s report was sent to DEQ’s emergency and radiological services division on Dec. 26, nearly a week after the incident.

The two-and-half page report lists a series of 16 informational items Axiall officials answered in accordance with the state’s environmental regulations. The items range from information on the date and time in which the “release” began and its duration to remedial actions taken in the wake of the explosion.

In response to item number six in which Axiall was asked to provide the permit number and the current permitted limit “for the pollutant(s) released from the emission point source involved,” the company stated that “the release was due to fire and was not from an emission point subject to emission limits.”

In their report, Axiall officials stated that the release began at 1:41 p.m. on Dec. 20 and lasted for “approximately 57 minutes,” ending at 2:38 p.m.

Axiall officials also reported that the plant’s PHH vinyl chloride manufacturing, the facility in which the incident occurred, was “immediately shut down” and that the ensuing fire “was manually isolated.”

Axiall’s report states three times that “the incident is still under investigation” and that the company is conducting an “incident investigation…to determine any additional corrective or preventive measures.”

The Environmental Protection Agency lists all three chemicals cited in Axiall’s report as toxic and has classified vinyl chloride as a Group A, human carcinogen.

The incident last month sent 27 people to area hospitals. Axiall’s report states that there “were no injuries of facility personnel as a result of the incident” and that the company is unaware of any impact to groundwater.

Axiall formed in January 2013 when PPG Industries’ commodity chemicals division and Georgia Gulf merged.