• On May 1, 2002, a huge fire destroyed the Third Coast Industries automotive-fluids blending and packaging plant southeast of Houston. The blaze began late at night, when no workers were there, and burned for more than 24 hours, consuming 1.2 million gallons of anti-freeze, motor oil, brake fluid and other materials.
CSB investigators found that the Third Coast facility lacked fire detection and suppression equipment and was not designed to contain the spread of even a small fire. The plant did have a containment dike around the tank farm, but the walls were broken in places and ineffective, the CSB found.
• On Nov. 12, 2008, a 2-million-gallon liquid-fertilizer storage tank collapsed at the Allied Terminal distribution facility in Chesapeake, Va. Two workers were critically injured, and two members of the public who tried to help the injured workers were treated for exposure to ammonia vapors.
CSB investigators found spotty coverage of fertilizer storage tanks, noting that federal rules are aimed specifically at oil tanks, not tanks used for other hazardous materials.
• On Oct. 23, 2009, a large vapor cloud ignited at the Caribbean Petroleum facility near San Juan, Puerto Rico. The blast damaged homes and businesses more than a mile from the facility. The CSB found gaps in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's program to manage the risks of such incidents.
"CSB investigations have shown widespread gaps in the oversight of these types of facilities," said Daniel Horowitz, the CSB's managing director. "So in our investigation at Freedom Industries, we will be looking for how to close those gaps, because no community should have to suffer what West Virginia is now experiencing."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.