ExxonMobil to pay civil penalty and take remedial measures to resolve Clean Air Act violations stemming from deadly fire at Texas refinery

Beaumont STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER / Guiseppe Barranco/The Enterprise
The Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a settlement with ExxonMobil Oil Corporation (ExxonMobil) today to resolve federal Clean Air Act claims arising from a 2013 fire at the company’s oil refinery in Beaumont, Texas that killed two employees and injured ten others.  In a complaint filed today with the settlement, the United States alleges that the company violated Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act, which requires measures to prevent accidental releases of extremely hazardous substances that can have serious public health and environmental consequences.  The April 17, 2013, fire at the refinery occurred when workers used a torch to remove bolts from the top, or “head,” of a device called a heat exchanger.  The torch ignited hydrocarbons released from the head.  EPA’s inspection following the incident disclosed violations of Section 112(r) and of the regulations known as the Chemical Accident Prevention provisions.  “The deaths...
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Manager knew safety concerns at Eastern Montana oil plant that exploded

Montana This photo provided by Wibaux County Disaster and Emergency Services, shows an eastern Montana oil recycling facility destroyed by an explosion and a fire in 2012 outside of Wibaux. Three workers were injured in the explosion.
PHOEBE TOLLEFSON/Billings (MT) Gazette Before a gas explosion consumed an Eastern Montana waste plant in 2012, the plant’s manager acknowledged the building was so poorly wired and ventilated that “we run the risk of killing someone.” TO READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE, CLICK HERE
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IRECA: June conference expands competition

Smith Brayton Fire Training Field in College Station, TX is an internationally recognized emergency response training center.
Offering something a little different every year has been the guiding principle behind planning the International Rescue and Emergency Care Association conference. However, the 71st Annual Conference & Challenges being held June 17 through 21, 2019 in College Station, TX represents a more ambitious leap for IRECA. With Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service’s (TEEX) Brayton Fire Training Field and Disaster City® as its location, the conference is expanding the number of teams competing in its rescue challenges from six to 12, said past IRECA president and conference chairman Gary Leafblad.  “Doubling the number of teams in one year represents a big gamble for us,” Leafblad said. The last IRECA conference was conducted in Boise, ID using the Amalgamated Sugar refinery as the setting for the challenges involving seven-member technical rescue teams and four-member first response rescue teams. There was also a basic life support challenge open to three-member level teams. Moving...
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Back in Business: Texas fire school resumes summer industrial training

IRTFtank Fire foam demonstration using IRTF's 42-foot-diameter storage tank prop.
By ANTON RIECHER/IFW Editor Beginning in the late 1960s Beaumont, TX played host to a summer training school attended by industrial firefighters across the state and, eventually, from around the world. Then, in 2004, that tradition was set aside by a new regime at the Beaumont fire school. David Owens with Industrial Rescue, operator of the recently reopened school, plans to resume the annual event beginning in May 2019. “It’s a big deal for us to get that going again,” Owens said. “It will give all the local emergency response companies around here the opportunity to train together again.” Scheduled for May 6 through 10, the summer school will offer training in interior and exterior firefighting, rescue, leadership and other topics important to emergency response teams. “I’ve talked to most of the players out there and they’re all excited about being a part of it,” Owens said. “Most of them started...
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Worker nearly consumed by huge fire that bursts out of cotton yarn

cottonYarn
Dongguan, China - This is the terrifying moment a worker was engulfed in massive flames that suddenly burst out of some cotton yarn rolls on a truck in southern China. TO READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE, CLICK HERE.
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Class Act: Firefighters change training schedule to accommodate Bush funeral

HF2
Former President George H.W. Bush, 94, was laid to rest Dec. 6 at his presidential library in College Station, TX. His death was a tragedy for the nation and played havoc with the planned schedule for the winter Hellfighter U fire training at the nearby Brayton Fire Training Field. “We’re forced into scrambling the agenda and rearranging the curriculum in a sequence we’ve never utilized before,” Hellfighter U director Frank Bateman said. The changes also meant sacrificing a portion of the open discussion time to discuss such hot button issues as prioritizing performance and firefighter safety in the controversy concerning firefighting foam and the environment. “What I say is if you’re going to put your life on the line using firefighting foam, make sure it performs,” Bateman said. “I want to incorporate that into the criteria for foam testing.” PHOS-CHEK ™ , the company behind Hellfighter U, offers a full range...
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This week marks 20th anniversary of deadly chemical plant blast in Pennsylvania

conceptscience The destroyed Concept Sciences building and damaged other buildings in the Hanover Township industrial park.
Twenty years ago this week a chemical plant explosion in Pennsylvania killed five and injured six, becoming one of the first major investigations conducted by the newly established U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board. The explosion occurred at Concept Sciences Inc., near Allentown, PA, on February 19, 1999. As a result of the explosion four Concept Sciences employees and the manager of an adjacent business were killed. Two Concept Sciences employees were injured, as were four people in nearby buildings. The explosion damaged ten buildings and several residences in the immediate area. The case study found that the explosion was most likely due to high concentration and temperature in a process vessel containing several hundred pounds of hydroxylamine, a potentially explosive chemical used in the manufacture of semiconductors. Concept Sciences' process safety management systems were insufficient to properly address the hazards inherent in its manufacturing process. The case study added...
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Companies quietly install gunfire-detection systems at U.S. offices and factories

gunfire A vigil was held Sunday for five people killed in a shooting Friday at a Henry Pratt Co. manufacturing plant in Aurora, Ill. (Reuters)
By CHIP CUTTER/Wall Street Journal Corporate executives worried about workplace shootings are quietly installing gunfire-detection systems in U.S. offices and factories. Most don’t tell employees what the sensors are, for fear of alarming them. TO READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE, CLICK HERE.
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EPA announces PFAS environmental action plan

PFAS
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced EPA’s Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Action Plan. It responds to extensive public interest and input the agency has received over the past year and represents the first time EPA has built a multi-media, multi-program, national communication and research plan to address an emerging environmental challenge like PFAS. Concern about PFAS is central to the continuing controversy over the use of fluorinated chemicals in firefighting foam. EPA’s Action Plan identifies both short-term solutions for addressing these chemicals and long-term strategies that will help provide the tools and technologies states, tribes, and local communities need to provide clean and safe drinking water to their residents and to address PFAS at the source—even before it gets into the water. “The PFAS Action Plan is the most comprehensive cross-agency plan to address an emerging chemical of concern ever undertaken by EPA,” said EPA Acting...
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Asst. Chief Bob Royall earns lifetime emergency management award

royal Asst. Chief Bob Royall was awarded the Emergency Management Association of Texas Lifetime Achievement Award In San Marcos.
By BRYAN KIRK/Patch HARRIS COUNTY, TX -- Harris County Fire Marshal's Office (HCFMO) Assistant Chief Bob Royall was awarded the Emergency Management Association of Texas Lifetime Achievement Award, at the 2019 EMAT Leadership Symposium in San Marcos, TX. TO READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE, CLICK HERE.
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Dozens to be punished over China explosion that killed 19

yibin The blast in Yibin Hengda Technology Co. in Jiang'an County
POST ONLINE MEDIA Around 60 people are to be punished for their roles in a chemical plant explosion that killed 19 workers and injured 12 in southwest China's Sichuan Province last July, according to a report from the Xinhua news agency. To read the entire article, CLICK HERE.
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New problem for legal weed: Exploding pot factories

download-8 In 2016, two workers were sent to a burn unit after an explosion, pictured here, at a medical marijuana processor in Oregon. Felony charges were later brought against the business owner. | Danny Miller/Daily Astorian via AP
By REBECCA RAINEY/Politico States are facing a new danger as legal marijuana spreads across the country: Explosions and fires at cannabis factories are sending workers to the hospital with severe burns, revealing the nascent industry's lack of proper safety standards. To read the entire article, CLICK HERE.
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CSB releases final report on June 2016 Pascagoula gas plant explosion

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board has released its final report of the June 27, 2016, investigation of an explosion and fire at the Enterprise Products Pascagoula Gas Plant in Pascagoula, MS. The CSB determined that the probable cause was a phenomenon known as thermal fatigue.  The CSB also issued recommendations to two trade associations and local emergency responders.   The incident occurred late in the evening on June 27, 2016, when a major loss of containment in a heat exchanger resulted in the release of methane, ethane, propane, and several other hydrocarbons. The hydrocarbons ignited, initiating a series of fires and explosions, which ultimately shut down the site for almost six months.  CSB Interim Executive Kristen Kulinowski said, “More than 500 gas processing facilities operate across the country and the use of similar heat exchangers is common. Extending the life cycle of equipment at these facilities requires more robust inspection protocols.  Operators shouldn’t...
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Plugging the dike: Dutch port chief visits US fire symposium

Waal_20190208-213244_1 Jan Waals, Port of Rotterdam fire brigade.
    By ANTON RIECHER/IFW Editor In North America, the containment surrounding a flammable liquid storage tank is known as a dike. However, Jan Waals, in charge of emergency response for Europe’s largest port, is more likely to think of a dike as a wall built to keep the Atlantic Ocean from flooding his native country, not crude oil. “The Netherlands is a very small country with a lot of inhabitants,” he said. “Every square meter must be used to its maximum. All the installations in the port, the industrial plants, operate so close together.” Waals is director of the 315-member Joint Fire Brigade, an organization that provides firefighting and other assistance in or near the Port of Rotterdam. The brigade is a joint venture of the city of Rotterdam and nearly 60 companies operating in or near the massive port. The director was among the fire protection experts on hand...
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Consumers probes fire detection system in Michigan gas plant blaze

557c8146-bc40-4267-b54d-672f24a0955f-MI-Consumers-Fire-01 Flames shoot from two silo-looking structures at the compressor station.
A fire detection system that apparently activated by mistake may have started a chain reaction that led to a blaze that shut down one of Michigan's busiest natural gas facilities during a record-breaking cold snap, a Consumers Energy official said Wednesday. TO READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE, CLICK HERE
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A man and a teen has been charged in 2018 Illinois factory fire

flame_20190207-153906_1
Springfield, IL - An adult and an alleged teenage accomplice are charged with setting fire to an abandoned central Illinois food processing plant. Twenty-four-year-old Richard L. Thomas of Springfield and a 17-year-old boy were charged Wednesday with arson and criminal damage to property in connection with a fire at the abandoned Pillsbury Mills factory. TO READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE, CLICK HERE
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Plant owner pays nearly $150K after Delaware bridge's closure in 2018

delaware Delaware Memorial Bridge
WILMINGTON , DE - A chemical plant owner has repaid the Delaware River and Bay Authority nearly $150,000 in lost revenue after a toxic gas leak forced a bridge to close for hours in 2018.             Robert Stewart with Croda Inc. said in a Tuesday statement that reimbursing the DRBA is the right thing to do.       TO READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE, CLICK HERE   
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Federal judge orders Chemical Safety Board to require disclosure of chemical emissions from accidents

4XOXJXBJSUI6TMAR3BIAMRG4TA A cloud of smoke appears after another explosion at the Arkema plant in Crosby, Tex., on Sept. 3, 2017. (John Taggart/For The Washington Post)
WASHINGTON, D.C. - In a lawsuit filed after Hurricane Harvey, a federal judge has ordered the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board to force the disclosure of chemical emissions resulting from accidents. More than 1,000 industrial chemical accidents take place every year. The biggest include the explosions that killed 15 people at a fertilizer plant in West, TX,  and the explosions that took place at the Arkema chemical plant in the Houston area after unprecedented flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey. TO READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE, CLICK HERE
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Foam partners test fluorine/non fluorine foams at Beaumont fire school

Legendary industrial firefighter Dwight Williams is proposing a compromise. If he pulls it off, it could be a major step forward in resolving the irreconcilable controversy over the continued use of fluorinated chemicals in firefighting foam. Dwight P. Williams and US Fire Pump used the 42-foot diameter storage tank project at the newly reopened International Rescue Training Field in Beaumont, TX to test his fluorinated 1 x 3 AR-AFFF Signature series foam using the US Fire Pump Defender fixed appliance. With nearly a minute of pre-burn before application of the foam the fire was totally extinguished in two minutes and 43 seconds using the single Defender appliance.  Foam was metered with a 1½-inch line educator moving 125 gpm set at one percent. “Although this was impressive, our application rate was only .07,” Williams said “If our application rate was up to about .10 it puts the fire out a lot quicker.”...
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Meet the Formulator: Fluorine foams remain indispensable to industrial firefighting, expert says

Hubert Mitch Hubert
Opponents of firefighting foam containing fluorinated chemicals fail to fairly weigh the overwhelming benefits of these products against evidence that exposure can ultimately lead to adverse health effects in humans, said Mitch Hubert, a leading chemist or “formulator” working in this specialized market. Speaking to an international audience of industrial fire responders in October, Hubert said that fluorinated foams are under attack from an environmental standpoint on a worldwide basis.  “That has really led us to a crossroads in the firefighting foam industry,” he said. “Do we stay with fluorinated foams or go to non-fluorinated foams? There are advantages and disadvantages on both sides of that argument.” Chief among the disadvantages for industrial firefighters is the lack of a substantial track record of success using non-fluorinated foam, Hubert said. “Fluorine free foams have not proven to be as effective in large catastrophic fire,” he said. “This is much of what the...
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