"Equipment Failure at Refinery Leads to Toxic HF Release"

"A hydrofluoric acid leak from an oil refinery in Ohio last week sent a worker to the hospital and required the use of a 'water cannon' to disperse the poisonous gas, underscoring the potentially perilous nature of a chemical used at 50 refineries across the country.

The Marathon Oil Corp. refinery in Canton, Ohio, has estimated in a report to the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Response Center that 145 pounds of the acid, known as HF, escaped during the Feb. 23 incident. The company blamed equipment failure. Workers were evacuated.

Remedial steps included 'flooding the area with water,' according to the company’s report to the response center.

The refining industry is experiencing a rash of fires, explosions and mechanical breakdowns, putting workers at risk. Such incidents may signify weaknesses that could lead to a calamity. Over the last five years, the Ohio refinery has been cited more often than all but three other refineries using HF for failing to manage hazardous processes."

Jim Morris and Chris Hamby report for the Center for Public Integrity February 28, 2011.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011