Explosion at chemical plant in Ohio

Article by Amanda Doyle

AN explosion and fire occurred at the Emerald Performance Materials chemical plant in Akron, Ohio, on Wednesday 18 July at around 13:00 local time, with no serious injuries reported.

According to local news reports, an evacuation zone was established within a half mile radius of the facility. The primary chemical used at the plant, butadiene, is an irritant to the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. Officials feared that the highly flammable butadiene could cause a secondary explosion or a chemical reaction with other materials. A drone and a plane were used to determine what was burning and to ensure that there was no mass release of butadiene. A HAZMAT team entered the site two hours after the explosion.

The fire was extinguished at 17:00 local time and the all clear was given shortly afterwards as authorities determined that there was no ongoing risk of chemical exposure. All employees were accounted for, but two people were transported to hospital for minor respiratory issues.

Emerald Performance Materials is a specialty chemicals firm that produces products such as polymer additives and epoxy resins, and supplies chemicals to industries including aerospace, cosmetic, paint, and food. News 5 Cleveland reported that the explosion is just the latest incident at the plant, where workplace safety issues have been a problem since 2011. News 5 Cleveland reported that Emerald has previously paid more than US$100,000 in penalties for environmental and workplace safety violations.

The cause of the explosion and fire remains unknown.

Article by Amanda Doyle

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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