On Dec. 17, a chemical fire at an Ohio hazardous waste facility fatally injured one worker and severely burned another. In the aftermath of this incident, U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso highlighted the importance of creating a national fire code for hazardous waste facilities.
The flash fire occurred at Heritage-WTI Inc., a hazardous waste storage and processing facility in East Liverpool, Ohio, when workers were splitting a large solid waste drum of hazardous flammable inorganic material into smaller storage drums.
"Unfortunately, accidents at hazardous waste processing facilities are all too common," said Moure-Eraso, who cited a CSB case study that found more than 20 fire and chemical release incidents occurred at U.S. hazardous waste facilities 2002-2007. These incidents resulted in two fatalities, 16 injuries, and eight community evacuations, shelter-in-place events or transportation disruptions.
As a result of two past investigations of hazardous waste plant explosions, CSB issued recommendations to the Environmental Technology Council (ETC), including the recommendation to petition the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to issue a standard specific to hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal facilities. The standard would provide guidance to prevent the occurrence of fires, explosions and releases at these types of facilities, Moure-Eraso said. CSB's recommendation has yet to be implemented.
"It is the CSB's view that the ETC's petition to the NFPA will lead to the development of a national standard that will improve safety practices at hazardous waste treatment plants across the country," Moure-Eraso stated.