Charges Filed after Chemical Leak

Friday, February 8, 2013 @ 03:02 PM gHale

After a deadly 2009 chemical leak during a transfer process went bad, a transportation company now faces a criminal charge of letting hazardous air pollution leak into the environment at an ammonia plant near Swansea, SC.

Werner Transportation Services Inc., of Gainesville, GA, is now under indictment by a federal grand jury in Columbia, SC, for violating the U.S. Clean Air Act, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. The company faces a fine of up to $500,000 for the criminal misdemeanor charge.

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It all started in July 2009, when Werner Transportation Services negligently released anhydrous ammonia, a hazardous substance, and “negligently placed another person in imminent danger of death and serious bodily injury’’ in violation of federal law, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Unaware of the leak, motorist Jacqueline Ginyard died after driving through a toxic ammonia cloud in front of the Tanner Industries Inc. plant outside Swansea. Ginyard, a health care worker and mother two, was on her way to work when her car became enveloped in the cloud.

The leak occurred after a hose blew out while ammonia was in the process of transferring between the Tanner plant and a Werner tanker truck. Some 7,000 pounds of poisonous ammonia leaked after the wrong type of hose ended up used to make the transfer, state regulators said.

The spreading ammonia, which can burn people’s lungs, sent at least seven people in the Swansea area to the hospital and caused others to flee from the toxic threat. Leaking ammonia blackened trees and other vegetation for hundreds of yards around the Tanner Industries plant.

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