Thursday morning, a cloud of dimethylamine (DMA60) was accidentally released during a loading process at the Taminco Pace Plant. Site Manager Dwane Brumfield says two employees and a truck driver went to area hospitals following the accident. He says no one was seriously injured.
The material released is used in pharmaceuticals, agricultural chemicals and water treatment chemicals, according to Brumfield.
An alarm sounded in the communities around the plant, alerting the public of the release, around 7:10 a.m. Brumfield says a second "all-clear" alert was sounded at 7:45.
The alarms were used as a precaution Thursday. Brumfield says there was no real danger to the community with this incident. "It made a vapor cloud, you could see it dissipating, getting thinner. Any risk off-site should have been very small."
Brumfield says the community-alert system was upgraded last year. It is designed to let neighbors of the plant know to shelter-in-place when sounded.
Sheltering in place includes closing and locking all windows and exterior doors; turning off all fans, heating and air conditioning systems; close the fireplace damper; go to an interior room of the house; use duct tape and plastic sheeting to seal cracks around the doors and vents into the room; bring pets with you; keep informed using radio or television or internet and stay there until officials give the all-clear.
Bennett C. Russell Elementary, located about a mile southeast of Taminco, sheltered in place, early care community school students and staff when the alert was sounded. Parents received a telephone alert saying no students who ride school buses had reached the school by the time the alert was sounded. The parent notification says, "At 7:45 a.m. we received confirmation that the spill did not create a chemical exposure issue for our school. We ended our shelter in place shortly after the confirmation and we have resumed regular operations."
Brumfield says this release dissipated primarily over the plant property. The wind was out of the west, so any residual odor from the release would have been rare. He says while many people are alarmed when they smell any odor coming from the plant, the amines (DMA60) at Taminco is, ".2 part per billion, which equates to one teaspoon in five Olympic-sized swimming pools. You will smell it off-site if there is even one drip at the plant," he notes, adding that the percentage is well below what is considered safe. "Even the smallest leak can be smelled."
"We are continually improving," Brumfield says. "We have technology that has improved even over the past couple of years. We have pumps that do not have any potential odors at all. We are working on valves to do the same. Our goal is to have nothing smelled off-site."
Brumfield says on behalf of Taminco, "We apologize to the public for the inconvenience. The notification, even though they may not understand...we are not taking any chances. We would rather give information up front and have a lot of people calling to ask what it is about than to not do anything."
There will be an investigation of the release, Brumfield says, and measures will be taken to mediate those causes toward preventing a similar incident.
Sheltering in Place
Close and lock all windows and exterior doors.
If you are told there is danger of explosion, close the window shades, blinds, or curtains.
Turn off all fans, heating and air conditioning systems.
Close the fireplace damper.
Get your family disaster supplies kit and make sure the radio is working.
Go to an interior room without windows thats above ground level. In the case of a chemical threat, an above-ground location is preferable because some chemicals are heavier than air, and may seep into basements even if the windows are closed.
Bring your pets with you, and be sure to bring additional food and water supplies for them.
It is ideal to have a hard-wired telephone in the room you select. Call your emergency contact and have the phone available if you need to report a life-threatening condition. Cellular telephone equipment may be overwhelmed or damaged during an emergency.
Use duct tape and plastic sheeting (heavier than food wrap) to seal all cracks around the door and any vents into the room.
Keep listening to your radio or television until you are told all is safe or you are told to evacuate. Local officials may call for evacuation in specific areas at greatest risk in your community.
Information about sheltering in place was obtained at: http://www.nationalterroralert.com/shelterinplace/ Visit this site for more information.