Lawmaker calls for transparency following Lanxess chemical spill

The Investigators

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)– State Representative Wendell Gilliard is slated to tour the Lanxess facility on Friday.

Gilliard requested to meet with the plant manager on Monday amid growing health and safety concerns from neighbor’s in the area.

“We have been getting a lot of phone calls and people have been stopping by wanting to talk about the past and future of the facility,” said Gilliard.

The chemical company, located in the peninsula’s neck area, reported a phosphorous spill on November 27th.

The spill led to several road closures including I-26 and required a reverse 911 call to neighbors urging them to shelter in place and secure doors.

According to the plant manager, Jean-Francois Berthiaume, Phosphorus is a toxic chemical that easily ignites when exposed to oxygen.

“When phosphorus burns it creates a lot of smoke. You just need a small amount of phosphorus to create a lot of smoke,” says Berthiaume. “The smoke is considered an irritant that will cause a large quantity of irritations to eyes and lungs.”

Jean-Francois Berthiaume, Lanxess Plant Manager

In May, the facility reported a chlorine leak that sent 6 employees to the hospital. The incident resulted in a citation from the Office of Occupational Safety and Health. The penalty notification addressed to the company lists 3 violations categorized as ‘serious’.

“This inspection has revealed conditions which we believe, do not comply with certain safety and health rules and regulations,” wrote the S.C Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

The violations include failing to review the operating procedures as often as necessary and failing to address the proper ‘process hazard analysis’.

The combined violations resulted in a $3,000 OSHA penalty.

Representative Gilliard said the two spills this year raised concerns from neighbors who fear for their health and safety.

“They should be safe. Safety is first and foremost when you are working with a company that deals with a lot of flammables and combustibles,” he said. “I am here to create dialogue to make sure they are doing the right thing,” he added.

Lanxess provided the following statement in response to Representative Gilliard’s interest in meeting with facility leaders.

“We look forward to meeting with Representative Gilliard and other community leaders later this week. We had been hoping to show the Representative many of the upgrades made at the facility since he worked here, and since LANXESS acquired the site. Just as we have been transparent and cooperative with the regulatory agencies, we will approach this discussion the same way. We are continuing to investigate the cause of last week’s incident and will share the progress with the Representative this week, while also updating other local officials, our Community Advisory Panel members, and the regulatory agencies. ”


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