Monday, January 10, 2000

Spill cleanup empties tanks


Officials say second rupture would be worse

BY TOM O'NEILL and WILLIAM A. WEATHERS
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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Cleanup crews add containment booms to the spill site along the Ohio River.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
| ZOOM |
        Environmental officials expected to continue today the removal of 1.5 million gallons of oil and farm fertilizer from tanks adjacent to one that ruptured over the weekend, causing a nitrogen-solution spill at a Riverside company.

        Dale Farmer, on-site coordinator for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, said late Sunday that about 105,000 gallons of the 379,500 gallons of spilled nitrogen-solution fertilizer had been recovered from the ground at Southside River Rail.

        About 2,000 feet of boom was placed in the nearby Ohio River to minimize the spread of the spill, he said, adding that the impact on river life is unknown.

        The cause of Saturday's tank rupture also is not yet clear, Mr. Farmer said. No one was injured. The spilled farm fertilizer is nontoxic.

        “The community should not be alarmed,” said Cincinnati District Fire Chief Roy Yocum. “There is no health hazard at this time nor do we anticipate a health hazard.

        “The major concern is if there was another tank failure (and) how to prevent more of the product from entering the waterway.”

        Chief Yocum said that after the storage tank collapsed or exploded about 1 p.m. Saturday, the nitrogen solution made it into the river after “the large tidal-wave effect of the liquid broke the (concrete) dike wall and (it) was forcible enough to push two tractor-trailerrigs into the river and moved three more toward the river.”

        Chief Yocum said that when the tank ruptured it may have caused damage to four adjacent tanks, with the major damage being to one 30 feet to the west. It contains 500,000 gallons of mineral oil.

        The other three nearby tanks contain a 28 percent solution of liquid nitrogen, soy bean oil and Hisol, a gasoline additive that represents a low-level flammability hazard.

        The biggest item of concern Sunday was a tank containing 500,000 gallons of potentially flammable base oil used in hydraulics, Mr. Farmer said.

        “We don't believe we lost any,” Mr. Farmer said, “but if that got in the river, it would be difficult to clean up.”

        Officials from Southside Rail were not available for comment Sunday. The company stores other companies' ma terials, which are transported from Riverside by barge and truck.

        The decision to off-load the contents of two adjacent tanks was precautionary.

        Off-loading, in which the tank contents are piped onto barges and hauled away, began Sunday night and was expected to contin ue at least through today, weather permitting, Mr. Farmer said. Because of the rupture, officials had to build new pipelines connecting the tanks to the barges, slowing the process Sunday.

        There is no immediate indication those two adjacent tanks are leaking. However, that determination has been slowed because debris from the ruptured tank is resting against a tank containing 1 million gallons of the same nitrogen-solution involved in the rupture.

        Of less concern, he said, was a third adjacent tank containing 1 million gallons of naphtha, a petroleum distillate that can be highly flammable. That tank did not appear to be damaged, Mr. Farmer said.

        The concrete walls around the ruptured tank appeared to have been in compliance, he said, adding that officials will today speed up their review of inspection records at the firm.

        Cincinnati firefighters and members of the U.S. Coast Guard will remain on the scene during the off-loading for assistance, Chief Yocum said.

       



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