Category Archives: Hazardous materials emergencies

Government deregulation without limits – FAA comes under criticism

Repost from The Register-Guard, Eugene, OR
[Quote: “When something bad happens, the government will take action — but over time those regulations and requirements wind up being dropped, reduced or delayed. The 2017 fatal Amtrak derailment near Tacoma, the 2016 oil train derailment in the Columbia River Gorge, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the 2008 financial crisis and countless other events could have been prevented.”]

Deregulating? DeFazio’s watching

Posted Mar 27, 2019 at 12:01 AM

The Boeing 737 jet crashes raise troubling questions that go far beyond one company’s safety record and one federal agency’s watchdog role.

The history of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft suggests it is an example of how the government’s regulation-and-oversight pendulum has swung too far. The Federal Aviation Administration has lacked both the money and the inclination to adequately oversee aircraft development, instead relying heavily on companies to do their own testing.

Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio is demanding answers. The Springfield Democrat chairs the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The committee’s investigative staff is doing research, and DeFazio then plans to hold hearings.

“This is really, really raising questions about the FAA as a watchdog,” he said in a meeting with The Register-Guard editorial board.

A faulty sensor is being investigated as one cause, and Boeing is working on a software fix. The two-sensor system was developed as a safety feature to prevent a plane from stalling. But it appears the failure of just one sensor can send the aircraft into a powerful, possibly irreversible dive unless the pilots override the system within 40 seconds, according to a New York Times report this week.

DeFazio promises a tenacious investigation. Among the questions are why the system was designed this way, whether the aircraft was unsafely rushed to market, and why the FAA and Boeing did not require extensive retraining of pilots.

“This is the first time Boeing has put in a system that took over the plane automatically,” he said. “And they didn’t think they needed to tell people about it — because it’s different from any other Boeing plane ever made?

“Obviously, maybe not the best idea.”

For years, the FAA has lacked sufficient inspectors and has outsourced much of that responsibility to the manufacturers. But the FAA is not unique. We now have a government that relies on the honor, integrity and self-supervision of the industries it regulates.

When something bad happens, the government will take action — but over time those regulations and requirements wind up being dropped, reduced or delayed. The 2017 fatal Amtrak derailment near Tacoma, the 2016 oil train derailment in the Columbia River Gorge, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the 2008 financial crisis and countless other events could have been prevented.

“It’s repeated time and time again,” DeFazio said. “There are limits to deregulation, which in many cases have been exceeded.”

Oregon has its own history of unwatchful eyes. The Cover Oregon health insurance fiasco could have been averted through closer, more-knowledgeable oversight and insistence on stronger testing of the technology throughout its development. Better oversight — not to mention much-better planning in the first place — might have saved the state from wasting millions of dollars in the Highway 20 reconstruction between the valley and the coast.

Each time, government and the public vow to learn from these lessons. Then we relax and we forget.

When DeFazio and his congressional colleagues find the answers they are seeking, our government should heed them.

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    LPG Tank Cars derail in Martinez – could have been a catastrophic event

    Derailment in Martinez: the nightmare no one wants

    By Roger Straw, The Benicia Independent – 05/01/2018
    LPG tank car derailment Martinez 2018-05-01 (KTVU Fox 2 News)

    Early this morning, at least two tank cars carrying liquid petroleum gas (LPG) derailed while backing into the Shell Refinery in Martinez, CA.  (See brief KTVU News coverage.)

    Thank our lucky stars that those tank cars backing into the refinery did not tip over or leak!  Had they done so, and a spark ignited a fire, the accident might’ve resulted in a Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion, or “BLEVE” (blɛviː/ BLEV-ee).

    Sharon Kelly described a BLEVE this way on DeSmogBlog: “As liquids in a metal tank boil, gasses build up, pressurizing the tank even despite relief valves designed to vent fumes. Tanks finally explode, throwing shrapnel great distances, and spitting out burning liquids that can start secondary blazes.”

    BLEVEs were responsible  for the massive degree of destruction and loss of life in Lac Magantic, Canada.  If those Martinez tank cars had caught fire and erupted, the whole Shell Refinery might’ve blown up!  Downtown Martinez, the AMTRAK station, and the 680 freeway might’ve been threatened.

    LPG tank car derailment Martinez 2018-05-01 (KTVU News)

    Photos of the derailed cars show the 4-digit Hazardous Material Identification Placard: 1075.  The Emergency Response Guidebook, published by the U.S. Dept. of Transportation Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration identifies the code for 1075 on p. 31 as one of the following flammable materials:

    Butane, Butylene Isobutane, Isobutylene, Liquefied petroleum gas, LPG, Petroleum gases, liquefied Propane Propylene.

    This is EXTREMELY dangerous.  On p. 170 of the Emergency Response Guidebook, emergency responders are cautioned:

    In fires involving Liquefied Petroleum Gases (LPG) (UN1075); Butane, (UN1011); Butylene, (UN1012); Isobutylene, (UN1055); Propylene, (UN1077); Isobutane, (UN1969); and Propane, (UN1978), also refer to BLEVE – SAFETY PRECAUTIONS (Page 368).

    BLEVE is defined : “A boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion (BLEVE, /ˈblɛviː/ BLEV-ee) is an explosion caused by the rupture of a vessel containing a pressurized liquid that has reached temperatures above its boiling point.”

    Page 368-369 of the Emergency Response Guidebook reads as follows:

    BLEVE (Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion)
    The following section presents, in a two-page format, background information on BLEVEs and includes a chart that provides important safety-related information to consider when confronted with this type of situation involving Liquefied Petroleum Gases (LPG), UN1075. LPGs include the following flammable gases: Butane, UN1011; Butylene, UN1012; Isobutylene, UN1055; Propylene, UN1077; Isobutane, UN1969; and Propane, UN1978.

    What are the main hazards from a BLEVE?
    The main hazards from a propane or LPG BLEVE are:
    – fire
    – thermal radiation from the fire
    – blast
    – projectiles
    The danger from these decreases as you move away from the BLEVE centre. The furthest reaching hazard is projectiles.

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      Train tank cars carrying LPG derail near Shell refinery in Martinez

      Repost from KTVU.com Fox News 2, Oakland, CA
      [Editor: This derailment of tank cars carrying Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) could have resulted in extreme hazardous consequences.  See my analysis here. – RS]

      Freight train derails near Shell refinery in Martinez


      [Editor: apologies for the advertisement at start of this video… – RS]

      By: Leigh Martinez, MAY 01 2018 05:22AM PDT, VIDEO POSTED: MAY 01 2018 05:13AM PDT, UPDATED: MAY 01 2018 06:55AM PDT

      MARTINEZ, Calif. – A freight train derailed in Martinez early Tuesday causing two tankers to lean off the tracks.  It is believed the train was backing into the Shell refinery when it went off the tracks at Shell and Marina Vista avenues.

      Two cars have their wheels off the tracks and were leaning into other rail lines.

      This was not a hazmat situation because there is no sign of leakage and no injuries were reported.

      The rail line runs next to Amtrak and Union Pacific lines. There was no immediate word if those commuter trains are affected.

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        How industrial hygienists anticipate, recognize, and respond to rail emergencies

        From Occupational Health & Safety OHSonline
        [Editor:   Most significant: “The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration recently released a web-accessible Transportation Rail Incident Preparedness and Response training resource.”  – RS

        How Industrial Hygienists Assist in Rail Emergencies

        Speaking at an AIHce 2016 session, several experts said industrial hygienists are well suited to anticipate, recognize, and respond to the hazards and to control the risks using science-based methods.
        By Jerry Laws, Jul 01, 2016

        All hazardous material railcarsIndustrial hygienists are well prepared to perform an important role during the response to a railroad hazardous materials emergency, several experienced experts said during an AIHce 2016 session about rail crude oil spills on May 24. Risk assessment, data analysis, and plan preparation (such as the health and safety plan, respiratory protection plan, and air monitoring plan) are important early in the response to such emergency incidents, and CIHs are equipped to do all of these, they stressed.

        “With our knowledge, skills, and abilities, the training and education that industrial hygienists get, we’re well prepared” to interpret data on the scope and nature of a hazmat spill following a derailment, said Billy Bullock, CIH, CSP, FAIHA, director of industrial hygiene with CSX Transportation. He mentioned several new roles the industrial hygienist can manage in such a situation: health and safety plan preparation, town hall meetings to inform the public, preparing news releases for area news media, interpreting data from air monitoring, working with the local health department, and serving as the liaison with area hospitals, which can improve their treatment of patients affected by the spill if they understand where exposures really are happening and where a gas plume from the spilled crude is moving, he said.

        Bullock said the industrial hygienist’s role is primarily in evaluating chemical exposures:

          • assessing the risk for inhalation hazards
          • supporting operational decisions
          • gathering valid scientific information
          • managing data and ensuring data quality reporting and recordkeeping

        “All of these things we do as part of our day job transfer to an emergency situation very, very well,” he said, explaining that it’s very important to gain the trust of local responders and officials, including fire department leaders, hazardous materials response teams, the health department, and city officials.

        Another speaker, Laura Weems, CIH, CSP, CHMM, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Little Rock, Ark., agreed, saying industrial hygienists are well suited to anticipate, recognize, and respond to hazards and to control risks using science-based methods.

        Cleanup Workers Face Inhalation, Fire, and Heat Stress Hazards

        Scott Skelton, MS, CIH, senior industrial hygienist for CTEH, the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health, LLC, and other speakers explained that the hazard assessment following a hazmat derailment begins by identifying the type of crude oil that has spilled. It’s critical to know its flammability and the status of the oil’s containment, he said, and if there is an active fire, officials in command of the response will have to decide whether cleanup personnel are wearing flame-resistant clothing or chemical-protective apparel and will default to protecting against the greater hazard, he explained.

        Benzene exposure—a dermal and inhalation hazard—is a concern in the early hours of a crude oil spill following the derailment, Skelton said. He discussed a 2015 test spill into a tank measuring 100 feet by 65 feet, where the benzene was completely lost and other lighter compounds also were lost 24 hours after the spill occurred. But that type of large surface area for a crude oil spill is not typical at actual derailments, he said. Still, he said the inhalation risk for cleanup workers is of most concern during the initial 24 hours of a spill.

        “It’s my opinion that heat stress is the most dangerous aspect,” Skelton said. “With these [cleanup] guys, heat stress risk is extraordinary.” The American Petroleum Institute (API)’s report on PPE use by workers involved in the cleanup of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill confirmed this, he added.

        Patrick Brady, CIH, CSP, general director of hazardous materials safety for BNSF Railway Company, pointed out that crude oil spills from derailments are rare: 99.998 percent of the 1.7 million hazardous materials shipments moved by the railroad during 2015 were completed without an accidental release, he said.

        Brady said the railroad pre-positions 253 first responders along with needed cleanup equipment at 60 locations along its rail network. “The best case planning for us is we don’t rely on any local resources to be there at all,” he said, so BNSF hires hazmat contractors for crude oil derailment response and brings in consultants from CTEH to interpret monitoring data. (Responding to a question from someone in the session’s audience, he touted the AskRail™ app, a tool that gives emergency responders information about the hazardous materials inside a railcar or the contents being transported on an entire train. http://www.askrail.us/)

        Dyron Hamlin, MS, PE, a chemical engineer with GHD, said hydrogen sulfide is the primary acute hazard faced by responders after a spill occurs. While an H2S concentration below 50 ppm is irritating, 50-100 ppm causes loss of the individual’s sense of smell, and 100 ppm is immediately dangerous to life and health. If the crude oil in a railcar has 1 percent sulfur in the liquid, GHD personnel typically measure 300 ppm of H2S in the headspace inside the railcar, Hamlin said.

        Echoing Skelton’s comments, Hamlin said API found that 50 percent of the mass of typical crude oils is lost in the first 48 hours following a spill; following the Deepwater Horizon spill, the volatile organic compounds measured in the air during the response were lower than expected because of water dissolution in the Gulf of Mexico, he said.

        He cautioned the audience members to keep in mind that all hazardous material railcars’ contents are mixtures, which complicates the task of calculating boiling points and other factors important to responders and cleanup workers.

        DOT Helps Out PHMSA Offers Rail Incident Training Resource

        The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration recently released a web-accessible Transportation Rail Incident Preparedness and Response training resource, saying it gives emergency responders critical information and best practices related to rail incidents involving Hazard Class 3 Flammable Liquids, such as crude oil and ethanol. It is off-the-shelf training that is available online and can be used anywhere throughout the country.

        “TRIPR is the result of a concerted effort between federal agencies and rail safety stakeholders to improve emergency response organizations’ ability to prepare for and respond to rail incidents involving a release of flammable liquids like crude oil or ethanol,” said PHMSA Administrator Marie Therese Dominguez. “We are committed to safety and providing responders with flexible, cost-effective training and resources that help them respond to hazmat incidents safely.” The resource was developed in conjunction with other public safety agencies, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Coast Guard, and EPA, in order to prepare first responders to safely manage incidents involving flammable liquids.

        “Some of the most important actions we have taken during the last two years to increase the safety of transporting crude oil by rail have been providing more resources, better information, and quality training for first responders. This web-based training is another tool to help first responders in communities large and small, urban and rural, quickly and effectively respond if a derailment happens,” said FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg.

        The TRIPR curriculum focuses on key hazmat response functions and incorporates three animated training scenarios and introductory videos to help instructors facilitate tabletop discussions. PHMSA announced that it plans to host a series of open houses nationwide to promote the curriculum. Visit http://dothazmat.vividlms.com/tools.asp to download the TRIPR materials.

        About the Author: Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.
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