component-social-facebook_share_api-v2-01
      16
      Sunday
      30 / 21
      Monday
      40 / 27
      Tuesday
      42 / 24

      Employees back at BASF after chemical release

      Things are back to normal at BASF, after a chemical release evacuated employees and shut down traffic on the nearby Mississippi.

      BASF and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources tell KHQA the problem began Tuesday morning, when a chemical called sulfur trioxide was released into the atmosphere due to a mechanical malfunction. When combined with water, this chemical forms sulfuric acid. Sulfuric acid is harmful to people if it's inhaled, swallowed or touches skin. It is also corrosive and can cause burns.

      The release of sulfur trioxide was discovered in BASF's sulfuric acid recovery plant around seven o'clock Tuesday morning. It's believed to have been caused by a mechanical problem in the kiln area, which recovers sulfuric acid for use in the manufacturing process.

      When that happened, BASF tells KHQA 30 contractors and workers were evacuated from the area downwind of the release as a precaution. A small manufacturing facility downwind of the release site also was evacuated. Because of its proximity to the Mississippi River, the U.S. Coast Guard also stopped river traffic for two hours as a precaution. The release was brought under control around ten in the morning, but not before two to three hundred pounds of the sulfur trioxide was released into the atmosphere.

      Was there ever a danger to people?

      Missouri Department of Natural Resources Spokesperson Judd Slivka said, "No. The air is safe and the public health was never really threatened. Based on the modeling we've seen the affected area would have been at the most 500 yards from the dispersal point. So there wasn't any danger for people upwind. Given the relatively small amount of sulfur trioxide that was coming from the stack over a period of time and the weight of the trioxide, it didn't go very far."

      Slivka says the small amount of sulfur trioxide released into the air over three hours was about the equivelant of having a faucet on in your house, that was more than a drip but less than a stream. But due to the direction of the wind, we asked whether this would affect the Mississippi or the water supply of communities downstream.

      Is there any danger to the river or drinking water?

      Slivka said, "Not in those concentrations. The Mississippi river is running at 250 thousand cubic feet per second and so it wouldn't be an issue for drinking water right now. If there were an issue it would have been in air quality and since there was such a relatively low amount dispersed there wasn't a threat to air quality."

      BASF plans a complete investigation to determine the cause of the incident, to keep it from happening again.

      We spoke to Adams County Emergency Management Director John Simon Tuesday. He said even with the wind direction, there was no threat of the sulfur trioxide reaching the Quincy area, because the chemical dispersed within 400 yards from the plant. Simon says the distance from the BASF plant to the Quincy city limits is about seven miles.

      ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

      UPDATE: 2:20 p.m. Tuesday, March 23rd

      The river has been re-opened to traffic after being closed due to a chemical release at BASF near Palmyra.

      Officials with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources says sulfur trioxide was released into the atmosphere due to a mechanical malfunction on the kiln crews were using.

      When combined with water, sulfur trioxide forms sulfuric acid.

      Sulfuric acid is harmful to to people if it's inhaled, swallowed or touches skin. It is also a corrosive and can cause burns.

      Due to the release, about 30 contractors and workers were evacuated from the area downwind of the release as a precaution.

      Emergency response teams immediately started working to mitigate the release and it was brought under control at approximately 10 a.m.

      The release occurred in the site's sulfuric acid recovery plant, which recovers sulfuric acid for use in the manufacturing process.

      It is not yet known how much sulfur trioxide was released. Air monitoring was started by BASF personnel.

      No offsite impact has been detected.

      All law enforcement and regulatory agencies were notified.

      A complete investigation will be done to determine the root cause of the incident and corrective actions needed to prevent a recurrence.

      Adams County Emergency Management Agency Director John Simon says there is no threat of the sulfur trioxide reaching the Quincy area. Simon says the is no required action on our part due to the release at the BASF plant. He says the health threat from the release is approximately 400 to 500 yards from the actual point of release. Simon says the distance from the BASF plant to the Quincy city limits is about seven miles.

      ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

      UPDATE: 11:55 a.m. Tuesday, March 23rd

      W e just spoke to Adams County Emergency Management Agency and executive director John Simon says there is no threat of the sulfur trioxide reaching the Quincy area.

      Simon says the is no required action on our part due to the release at the BASF plant.

      He says the health threat from the release is approximately 400 to 500 yards from the actual point of release.

      Simon says the distance from the BASF plant to the Quincy city limits is about seven miles.

      ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

      The Missouri Department of Natural Resources is responding this morning to the report of an on-going air release of sulfur trioxide from the BASF plant in Palmyra.

      The department was notified this morning by plant officials that the plant began venting the gas about 8 a.m., and the release was continuing through mid-morning.

      The department has dispatched an emergency environmental responder from its Macon office to the scene to help determine the extent of the release and possible human health and environmental effects.

      When mixed with water, sulfur trioxide becomes sulfuric acid.

      BASF officials have evacuated the plant and neighboring industries. As a precaution, the U.S. Coast Guard has stopped traffic on the Mississippi River between mile markers 325 and 318.

      Prevailing winds from the southwest are carrying the vented gas over a primarily rural area of Illinois. The department has contacted both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency office that covers Missouri as well as the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

      The department has also notified Marion County emergency management officials.

      A copy of the Material Safety Data Sheet for sulfur trioxide may be found at http://www.sciencelab.com/msds.php?msdsId=9925153

      FOLLOW US ON TWITTER