Chemical firm fined following gas leak

Environmental update 28/11/2011

A chemical firm based in South Tyneside has been prosecuted by the Environment Agency (EA) following a serious gas leak.

An orange gas cloud was seen leaking from Industrial Chemicals Ltd's Hebburn plant in September last year. Following the report, officers from the EA investigated the plant and discovered that the firm had been producing ferric sulphate, which is often used for the treatment of sewage.

The gas cloud was a result of this process, and can be extremely toxic and corrosive if inhaled or brought into contact with skin.

Industrial Chemicals Ltd had failed to follow site procedures and had added too much acid to the chemical creation process, meaning that a large cloud of nitrogen dioxide was released into the air.

Luckily, the cloud - which was estimated to contain around 194 litres of nitrogen dioxide - dissipated before anyone was harmed by it. Whilst the emission limit is set at 200mg per cubic metre, this was exceeded by the firm by 386mg per cubic metre.

The firm was fined £10,000, plus £5,600 in costs at South Tyneside Magistrates Court following their admission of breaching environmental permits.

Regulatory officer at the EA, Peter Duffy, said, “This was a potentially serious incident, and had the prevailing wind been in a different direction, it could have been much worse.

“We take our role to protect the environment very seriously. The company failed to follow its site procedures which resulted in the incident. Operating procedures are there to ensure that plants like this don’t cause any harm to the public or the environment,” Mr Duffy added.

Since the incident, the chemical firm has taken steps to prevent a similar leak happening again.

If you would like further information, and already subscribe to RBS Mentor, please call the Advice Service. If you would like more information on how Mentor could help your business in situations like this and many others, contact us today for information.


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