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Plant Mgr. - 10-Ton Leak Of 2% Hexavalent Chromium Solution (10% Recovered) Not "Serious Incident"

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hatrack Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-16-11 02:06 PM
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Plant Mgr. - 10-Ton Leak Of 2% Hexavalent Chromium Solution (10% Recovered) Not "Serious Incident"
LEAKING the carcinogenic chemical hexavalent chromium into a Newcastle suburb should not be considered a ''serious incident'', the Orica chief executive, Graeme Liebelt, has submitted to an upper house inquiry.

Senior staff at the plant admitted at the inquiry yesterday they had ''lost control'' of the ammonia plant on the night of August 8.

''Deviations'' from operating procedure combined with other factors to ''overwhelm'' a containment system set up to catch overflow during an operation to restock supplies of chromium VI, also known as hexavalent chromium, the inquiry heard. The plant's manager, Stuart Newman, explained how about 10 tonnes of condensate containing about 2 per cent chromium VI was emitted from the plant. Only about one tonne was captured as designed.

A night shift supervisor, Warren Ashbourne, who was in charge of the plant on the night, said he ''knew immediately'' he had a chromium problem when he saw yellow spots on the plant. He thought the problem had been solved fairly quickly until he was alerted to yellow liquid spurting out of pin-holes in an old temporary repair about five or six metres up an exhaust stack, triggering his decision to start an emergency shutdown.

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MineralMan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-16-11 02:52 PM
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1. Yuck.
I'm glad it was in Australia and not in St. Paul, MN. I'll bet the Newcastle hazmat team is hard at work cleaning this up.
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Tansy_Gold Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-16-11 03:12 PM
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2. This is the stuff Erin Brockovich went after, isn't it?
Hmm, maybe I better read the article.
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Tansy_Gold Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-16-11 03:18 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. Bingo!
Nothing in the OP article, but easily found online --

Pacific Gas and Electric litigationMain article: Hinkley groundwater contamination
The case alleged contamination of drinking water with hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium(VI), in the southern California town of Hinkley. At the center of the case was a facility called the Hinkley Compressor Station, part of a natural gas pipeline connecting to the San Francisco Bay Area and constructed in 1952. Between 1952 and 1966, PG&E used hexavalent chromium to fight corrosion in the cooling tower. The wastewater dissolved the hexavalent chromium from the cooling towers and was discharged to unlined ponds at the site. Some of the wastewater percolated into the groundwater, affecting an area near the plant approximately two miles long and nearly a mile wide.<6> The case was settled in 1996 for US$333 million, the largest settlement ever paid in a direct action lawsuit in US history.

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txlibdem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-17-11 09:19 AM
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4. This is the most toxic form of Chromium
... but there's no health and safety risk???
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Nihil Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-18-11 04:07 AM
Response to Reply #4
5. If only it were radioactive ...
... there'd be a massive outcry if even a milligram of the stuff
"escaped" into the "outside world" ...

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txlibdem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-18-11 08:03 AM
Response to Reply #5
6. Which is a stupid double standard, I agree. Science tells us
Mods, the following is from OSHA.GOV so the rules about copyright protection do not apply.

Note, there are numerous links within the following text that I have not recreated (too lazy). Go to the link at the bottom to follow said links for more information:
Health Effects

Workers who breathe hexavalent chromium compounds at their jobs for many years may be at increased risk of developing lung cancer. Breathing high levels of hexavalent chromium can irritate or damage the nose, throat, and lungs. Irritation or damage to the eyes and skin can occur if hexavalent chromium contacts these organs in high concentrations or for a prolonged period of time.


* Health Effects of Hexavalent Chromium <24 KB PDF*, 2 pages>. OSHA Fact Sheet, (2006, July). Provides a concise list of industrial sources, symptoms and health effects of exposure to hexavalent chromium, and OSHA requirements for the protection of employees.

* ToxFAQs for Chromium. Agency For Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), (2008, September). Answers the most frequently asked health questions about chromium.

* Toxicological Profile for Chromium. Agency For Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), (2008, September). Characterizes the toxicological and adverse health effects information regarding chromium and chromium compounds.

* Public Health Statement for Chromium. Agency For Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), (2008, September). Describes chromium and its effects on humans.

* Chromium (VI) (CASRN 18540-29-9). Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), (1998, September 3). Lists human health effects that may result from exposure to various substances found in the environment.

* Toxicological Review of Hexavalent Chromium <1 MB PDF, 77 pages>. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Chemical Abstract Service (CAS) No. 18540-29-9, (1998, August). Provides scientific support and rationale for the hazard identification and dose-response assessment in the integrated risk information system (IRIS) pertaining to chronic exposure to hexavalent chromium.


All forms of hexavalent chromium are regarded as carcinogenic to workers. The risk of developing lung cancer increases with the amount of hexavalent chromium inhaled and the length of time the worker is exposed. Studies of workers in chromate production, chromate pigment, and chrome electroplating industries employed before the 1980s show increased rates of lung cancer mortality. Certain hexavalent chromium compounds produced lung cancer in animals that had the compounds placed directly in their lungs.

* Gibb, H.J., et al. "Lung cancer among workers in chromium chemical production." American Journal of Industrial Medicine (AJIM) 38.2(2000, July 7): 115-126. Describes a study regarding the incidence of lung cancer among workers in chromium chemical production.

* Report on Carcinogens (RoC). Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Public Health Services, National Toxicology Program (NTP). Links to sections of the report.
o Chromium Hexavalent Compounds <136 KB PDF, 4 pages>. Explains the carcinogenicity, properties, use, production, exposure, and regulations regarding chromium hexavalent compounds.


Direct eye contact with chromic acid or chromate dusts can cause permanent eye damage.

Respiratory Tract

Hexavalent chromium can irritate the nose, throat, and lungs. Repeated or prolonged exposure can damage the mucous membranes of the nasal passages and result in ulcers. In severe cases, exposure causes perforation of the septum (the wall separating the nasal passages). Breathing small amounts of hexavalent chromium even for long periods does not cause respiratory tract irritation in most people. Some employees become allergic to hexavalent chromium so that inhaling the chromate compounds can cause asthma symptoms such as wheezing and shortness of breath.


Prolonged skin contact can result in dermatitis and skin ulcers. Some workers develop an allergic sensitization to chromium. In sensitized workers, contact with even small amounts can cause a serious skin rash.

* Preventing Skin Problems From Working with Portland Cement. OSHA Guidance, (2008, February). Provides information about persistent skin rash caused by trace amounts of hexavalent chromium present in portland cement. It has been reported that skin contact from working with wet portland cement can lead to allergic and irritant forms of dermatitis.

* A Safety and Health Practioner's Guide to Skin Protection. Electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety and Health (eCLOSH), (2000). Includes illustrations of dry skin, irritant contact dermatitis (ICD), allergic contact dermatitis (ACD), and cement burns.

NOTE: The aforementioned toxicology comes from the Documentation of the Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) and Biological Exposure Indices (BEIs), American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), 6th Edition, Volume 1, and from the references listed above.
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