Friday, February 28, 2014

Lessons not learned regarding storage tanks near Rivers in 80's in Pittsburgh allowed incident in W. Va to happen

It was on a very cold  January morning in 1988  in Floreffe-Elrama  Pa. along Pa. 837 about 15 miles  up the Monongahela  River from Pittsburgh at an Ashland  Oil tank Farm when one of the tanks collapsed sending oil into the Mon river as its known and causing a wide spread panic as water company's and industry had to shut down there water intakes.

Tank Farm where collapse happened on this corner 
As  a million gallons of oil from the tank splashed over and on to Pa. 837 it also worked its way down to the mon river also busting a line carrying gasoline. The fire depts. and emergency management and coast guards river division   responded to scene and stopped the incident from getting worse  by installing dikes on the river to contain the spill but  hundreds of thousands of gallons made it down river but not before great confusion on who to call and what to do. It took 3-4 days for the spill to make it down past Pittsburgh and continue into the Ohio river and slowly dilute as water company's down river continued to monitor for the oil and shut off till it safely passed.
The fall out from the incident was not pretty seems the tank  was built in the 30's and was moved there in late 70's re erected and never properly inspected. The Allegheny County Fire Marshall's office was responsible for this and apparently was caught flat footed by the incident .
This lead to a bunch of resignations and retirements and ultimately criminal and civil litigation over the
damage.The facility was later sold to a new company.,1469551

Just 2 years later in 1990 there would be another incident with a spill from a Buckeye pipe line in Armstrong county and responders where much better prepared to handle it.

Allegheny Valley REACT  the Emergency Communications team I belonged to at the time helped deliver water to invalids and shut in during this crisis along the Allegheny River this time. 

One thing learned for sure was water company's shut off there intakes immediately to prevent the oil from getting into the treatment plants. Allegheny County is much better prepared for chemical emergency's and Private clean up contractors like Weaver Town and McCutcheon  have professionally trained staff available 24/7 and many of the facility's also have trained staff in plants ready to go to work to prevent spills.
Unlike in the 80's when clean up company's like AMO Pollution Control  a Maryland based company  who where located in Cecil Twp. did this kind of clean up work and where forced out of business after polluting the Meadows Land area of Washington County  at there storage facility.

Now contrast this with  what recently happened in Charleston West Virginia  this winter when a tank carrying a product used in coal processing broke and spilled into a river.
 almost the same scenario an aging tank extreme cold weather and instead of emergency responders going out and checking complaints from residents about and unusual smell nothing was done then when the leak was discovered water company left treatment plant open and tried to use activated carbon to eliminate it out of water instead of shutting off its intakes and spread the stuff thru a water system supplying 300,000
Yes you better believe there is going to be a lot of heads rolling because it has been over 20 years those tanks where never checked etc etc etc.  So now W.Va. has had to learn a hard lesson and it will be another community some where else because of complacency where a spill will happen and there unprepared.
But that's just seems to be the normal run duck and cover your ass when shit hits the fan  never be proactive and stop problems when they can be easily remedied in the first place. So will your community be next?

No comments:

Post a Comment