Safety in Action Saves Chem Plant

Friday, August 24, 2012 @ 05:08 PM gHale

A quick response by the company’s safety department is responsible for containing a potentially dangerous chemical spill at Norwalk, CT-based King Industries Inc. Tuesday afternoon.

“Whenever you hear a call over the scanner — a tank is leaking — it’s a big deal,” said the company’s manger of operations, Robert King. “In terms of the amount of training we do and the response we had, I think we did a very good job.”

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Between 40 and 60 gallons of sulfonic acid, an organic compound with flammable properties, leaked from one of the tanks in the rear of the complex, triggering a massive emergency response.

Officials say they contained the spill within the tank farm, surrounded by a 4-foot concrete wall. In addition, a foam deluge system prevented the release of toxic vapors.

The Norwalk Fire Department responded to the scene but it was King’s own fire brigade, led by Fire Chief Bill Stenger, that handled the emergency.

“We had a good response,” said Stenger, a retired Norwalk Fire captain. “We have almost 60 Hazmat techs on site, so we’re pretty well prepared.”

Technicians were cleaning up the sticky chemical residue left over from Tuesday’s spill.

A family-owned business since 1932, King Industries manufactures chemical additives used in products such as engine oil, grease, hydraulic oils, paints, coatings and rubber goods.

King who, like other employees wore a hardhat and safety glasses while walking the plant, said safety is paramount to the success of the company.

“Safety is what keeps us in business,” he said. “It’s the cornerstone of our business. If we don’t operate safely, we don’t operate.”

An on-site electrician spotted the leak at 12:30 p.m. as he was signing off Tuesday at the end of his shift, King said. The electrician radioed the “Code Yellow” emergency, and the safety department responded.

“We train constantly for these types of situations,” said Deno Gualtieri, the company’s vice president of manufacturing.

The Norwalk Fire Department was on alert the moment the spill triggered the tank farm’s foam deluge system.

Firefighters responded with two trucks, a ladder company, rescue vehicle and a command car, per the safety plan, which King said has been in place for years.

Deputy Fire Chief Edward Prescott said the department routinely tours King Industries and is familiar with the layout. Firefighters also participate in training exercises there for practice in case of emergencies.

“We were on standby mode while they handled and contained the situation,” he said, adding the company has a good safety record.

The last major chemical spill at King Industries occurred in July 1992, when about 150 gallons of sulphuric acid and heptane spilled through a stress crack in a fiberglass tank.

The chemical ended up contained to inside one of the buildings where the company mixes chemicals. There were no injuries.

King said Tuesday’s spill highlights the need for constant preparation.

“We obviously are upset that it happened,” he said, “but it does happen throughout the industry where you can have a leak in a tank. Hence, the reason for having the appropriate safety measures.”

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