Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation R-84-014
Details
Synopsis: ON JULY 30, 1983, VINYL CHLORIDE UNDER PRESSURE ESCAPED FROM A NEWLY LOADED BUT NOT YET SECURED RAILROAD TANK CAR AT THE LOADING FACILITY WITHIN FORMOSA PLASTIC CORPORATION'S (FORMOSA) PLANT AT BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA. THE TANK CAR WAS A U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION (DOT) SPECIFICATION 105 A 300 W TANK CAR, UTLX 96402, BUILT BY THE UNION TANK CAR (UTC) COMPANY. SOON THEREAFTER, THE RELEASED VINYL CHLORIDE WAS IGNITED AND FORMED A LARGE BILLOWING FIRE. AN ADJACENT TANK CAR CONTAINING VINYL CHLORIDE BECAME DIRECTLY INVOLVED IN THE FIRE. TANK CAR UTLX 96402 LOST ITS CONTENTS THROUGH ITS LOADING PIPING AT THE TOP OF THE TANK AND WAS DESTROYED BY FIRE FUELED BY THE POOL OF THE ESCAPING VINYL CHLORIDE WHICH FORMED BENEATH IT; THE TORCH-LIKE FIRE THAT EMANATED FROM THE TANK CAR UTLX 96402 IMPINGED UPON THE ADJACENT TANK CAR CAUSING ITS SHELL TO THIN, BULGE, AND RUPTURE NON VIOLENTLY. AS A RESULT OF THIS ACCIDENT, TWO PESONS WERE INJURED AND THE SAFETY OF THE ADJACENT COMMUNITY WAS ENDANGERED. HAD THE SECOND TANK CAR RUPTURED VIOLENTLY, A POTENTIAL FOR CATASTROPHIC LOSSES EXISTED BECAUSE OF THE THREAT POSED TO THE VINYL CHLORIDE MANUFACTURING PLANT, VINYL CHLORIDE STORAGE SPHERES, CHLORINE STORAGE TANKS, NUMEROUS TANK CARS, AND OTHER PLANT FACILITIES.
Recommendation: THE NTSB RECOMMENDS THAT THE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN RAILROADS: IMMEDIATELY ISSUE A SERVICE BULLETIN TO ALL ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN RAILROADS-CERTIFIED FACILITIES EMPHASIZING THE NEED TO VERIFY THE PROPER INSTALLATION, MAINTENANCE, AND TESTING OF EXCESS FLOW VALVES ON TANK CARS. (URGENT)
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Acceptable Action
Mode: Railroad
Location: Baton Rouge, LA, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: DCA83AZ006
Accident Reports: Vinyl Chloride Monomer Release from a Railroad Tank Car and Fire, Formosa Plastics Corporation Plant
Report #: RAR-85-08
Accident Date: 7/30/1983
Issue Date: 3/15/1984
Date Closed: 4/27/1989
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: Association of American Railroads (Closed - Acceptable Action)
Keyword(s): Hazmat,Tank Car Loading and Unloading

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: Association of American Railroads
Date: 4/27/1989
Response: The National Transportation Safety Board has received your letter in further response to Safety Recommendations R-84-13 and -14. These safety recommendations concerned the installation and use of tank car excess flow valves. As stated in our letter of April 16, 1985 (copy enclosed), these safety recommendations have already been classified as "Closed--Acceptable Action." Letters sent by the Association of American Railroads (AAR) in 1984, to the railroad chief operating officers, shipping organization representatives, and all AAR members and private car owners alerting them to the incident in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on July 30, 1983, and advising shippers not to rely on the excess flow valve for tank car loading/unloading protection satisfied the intent of these safety recommendations. However, the AAR's additional efforts in the inspection and seat-tightening program, the establishment of regular inspections, the amendment of D4.05 of M-1002, Specifications for Tank Cars, the Certification of Test Form (D1) modification for EFV tightness certification, and the AAR petition to insert clarification in 49 CFR 179.100-13(d) show a commitment to rail safety. The Safety Board appreciates receipt of information regarding the AAR's progress and commends the AAR for recognizing the scope of the problem and for taking responsibility for corrective actions.

From: Association of American Railroads
To: NTSB
Date: 11/11/1988
Response: THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF RAILROADS (AAR) TANK CAR COMMITTEE TOOK RESPONSIVE ACTIONS IN 1984. LETTERS DATED APRIL 4, JUNE 11, AND AUGUST 21 WERE SENT TO THE RAILROAD CHIEF OPERATING OFFICERS, SHIPPING ORGANIZATION REPRESEN TATIVES, AND ALL AAR MEMBERS AND PRIVATE CAR OWNERS ALERT ING THEM TO THE INCIDENT AND ADVISING SHIPPERS NOT TO RELY ON THE EXCESS FLOW VALVE FOR TANK CAR LOADING/UNLOADING PROTECTION (SEE ATTACHMENTS). ADDITIONALLY, UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE TANK CAR COMMITTEE, AN INSPECTION AND SEAT TIGHTENING PROGRAM WAS INITIATED IN APRIL 1984. CAR OWNERS WEREREQUIRED TO INSPECT SEATS FOR TIGHTNESS DURING CAR SHOPPINGS USING A SPECIALLY DESIGNED TOOL. ANY LOOSE SEATS WERE TO BE TIGHTENED AND REPORTED TO THE TANK CAR COMMITTEE. THIS PROGRAM HAS BEEN ONGOING SINCE 1984, AND A LARGE PER CENTAGE OF THE TANK CAR FLEET USING EXCESS FLOW CHECK VALVES HAS NOW BEEN COVERED. INSPECTION RESULTS SHOWED THAT THERE WAS A NEED FOR REGULAR ASSESSMENT OF THE INTEGRITY OF THESE DEVICES. AS A RESULT, THE TANK CAR COMMITTEE TOOK STEPS TO ENSURE THAT ALL EXCESS FLOW VALVES THAT ARE APPLIED WITHOUT POSITIVE LOCKING MEANS ARE INSPECTED PERIODICALLY FOR SEAT TIGHTNESS, AND THE FORMAL FIELD INSPECTION REPORTING PROGRAM WAS DISCONTINUED. THE TANK CAR COMMITTEE HAS APPROVED WORD ING UNDER D4.05 OF M-1002, SPECIFICATIONS FOR TANK CARS AS FOLLOWS: (SEE LETTER) FURTHER, THE TANK CAR COMMITTEE HAS AUTHORIZED THE CERTIFICATION OF TEST FORM (D1) TO BE MODI FIED TO INCLUDE AN ENTRY FOR EFV TIGHTNESS CERTIFICATION. THE AAR HAS ALSO PETITIONED THE DOT TO INSERT CLARIFICATION IN 49 CFR 179.100-13(D). PETITION P-397 (ATTACHED) SEEKS TO AMEND THE WORDING UNDER THIS SECTION SO IT IS CLEARLY UNDER STOOD THAT EXCESS FLOW CHECK VALVES ARE ONLY DESIGNED TO PROVIDE PROTECTION DURING TRANSPORT, AND NOT DURING TRACK SIDE LOADING/UNLOADING OPERATIONS. ALTHOUGH THE PETITION WAS INITIALLY DENIED BY THE RESEARCH AND SPECIAL PROGRAMS ADMINISTRATION, THE AAR WAS ADVISED BY RSPA IN AUGUST 1986 THAT THESE REVISIONS WOULD BE CONSIDERED UNDER DOCKET HM 166. WE NOTE THAT THE TEXT OF THIS PETITION, AS WELL AS PROPOSED WORDING IN SECTION 173.31(C)(14) TO REQUIRE THAT EXCESS FLOW VALVES BE CHECKED FOR TIGHTNESS, HAVE BEEN PUB LISHED IN THE HM-166W NOTICE DATED 9/9/88.

From: Association of American Railroads
To: NTSB
Date: 5/30/1985
Response: Please refer to your letter of April 19, 1985 and your Safety Recommendations R-84-13 and -14, issued following your preliminary investigation of a non-transportation incident at Formosa Plastic Corporation's facility in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on July 30, 1983. We note that you have placed Safety Recommendations R-84-13 and -14 in a "Closed-Acceptable Action" status based on the AAR's actions to date. In response to your request for information on developments in this matter, we are pleased to report the following activities: The task force reviewing this subject has completed their initial inspection summary. A total of 998 cars were inspected for a total of 2,994 valves. Of this total, 0.9 percent were considered to be disengaged and 7.2 percent more were found to be loose. Even though the valve design under study has been in service over 25 years with no known incidents in transportation attributable to a disengaged excess flow valve seat, the Tank Car Committee is concerned that a significant number of valve seats in this study required tightening or were considered to be disengaged; therefore, at their March, 1985 meeting the AAR Tank Car Committee adopted the following measures to address this problem and to require a reinspection of the entire flammable gas tank car fleet: 1. A circular letter is to be issued to members and private cars owners to the effect that excess flow valves having threaded seats, on all tank cars used to transport a flammable gas, must be checked for tightness and tightened at the next tank or safety valve retest or the next time the car is cleaned. 2. An appropriate group is to review excess flow valve design to consider eliminating separable valve seats in 2" and 3" sizes, or provide positive locking device. 3. A representative sample of those cars checked and tightened in accord with the aforementioned circular letter will be reinspected. The task force on this subject will report the results of that reinspection. 4. Trade association representatives have been asked to communicate with their membership regarding this problem and the proposed solutions. We shall continue to keep you advised on the progress of our activity on this subject.

From: NTSB
To: Association of American Railroads
Date: 4/16/1985
Response: The Board notes that the shippers associations and the certified facilities have been advised of the incident at Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on July 30, 1983. Through staff contact, the Board has requested a copy of the letter that was sent to these associations and facilities. The Association of American Railroads (AAR) further indicates that these organizations will be informed of the findings of the AAR inspection program as well as any recommendations. This action fulfills the intent of Safety Recommendations R-84-13 and -14, which have been placed in a "Closed-Acceptable Action" status. While we have closed these recommendations, the Board would appreciate being kept informed of developments as the inspection program continues.

From: Association of American Railroads
To: NTSB
Date: 8/24/1984
Response: AAR LETTER: CERTIFIED FACILITIES HAVE BEEN ADVISED OF THE INCIDENT AND WILL BE INFOMRED OF THE FINDINGS OF OUR INSPECTION PROGRAM AS WELL AS ANY RECOMMENDATIONS. AS YOU ARE AWARE, THE AAR TANK CAR COMMITTEE HAS INSTITUTED A COMPREHENSIVE INSPECTION PROGRAM FOR THE PURPOSE OF DETER MINING THE CONDITION OF THE SEATS ON 2" AND 3" EXCESS FLOW VALVES ON CARS IN FLAMMABLE GAS AND ANHYDROUS AMMONIA SERVICE. IT IS POSSIBLE THAT ANALYSIS OF THE INSPECTION PROGRAM RESULTS WILL INDICATE THE NEED FOR IMPROVEMENTS IN THE INSTALLATION, MAINTENANCE AND TESTING OF EXCESS FLOW VALVES ON TANK CARS. WHEN THIS DETERMINATION HAS BEEN MADE, WE WILL ADVISE THE MEMBER RAILROADS, THE PRIVATE TANK CAR OWNERS, THE CERTIFIED FACILITIES, AND THE SHIPPERS ASSOCIATIONS OF OUR FINDINGS. THUS THE CERTIFIED FACILI TIES, WHO INSTALL THE VALVES, AND THE CAR OWNERS, WHO ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE MAINTENANCE AND TESTING OF THE VALVES, WILL BE FULLY INFORMED.

From: NTSB
To: Association of American Railroads
Date: 6/18/1984
Response: The Safety Board notes that the Association of American Railroads' (AAR) Tank Car Committee has appointed a special task force to investigate the installation and performance of tank car excess flow valves. Through staff contact, the Safety Board has been informed that the special task force, at its April 11, 1984, meeting, developed the details of the investigation it will undertake. The Safety Board is encouraged by this action and appreciates your effort to keep the Board informed of developments as the investigation progresses. The Board is concerned, however, that the AAR has been responsive only partially to Safety Recommendation R-84-14. While the Board notes that the AAR has circulated the Board's March 15, 1984, letter to the Chief Operating Officers of its member companies, the Board had hoped that, through the AAR's Bureau of Explosives, shippers and receivers that handle hazardous materials in tank cars would also be advised of the accident at Baton Rouge and of the subsequent findings regarding improperly positioned excess flow valve seats. Further, the Board urges the AAR to act promptly in response to Safety Recommendation R-84-14. It is the Board's belief that action on these recommendations should not be delayed and need not be delayed pending the results of the Tank Car Committee's investigation. We will hold Safety Recommendations R-84-13 and -14 in an "Open-Unacceptable Action" status, pending further response.

From: Association of American Railroads
To: NTSB
Date: 4/4/1984
Response: AAR LETTER: THE AAR TANK CAR COMMITTEE HAS APPOINTED A SPECIAL TASK FORCE TO INVESTIGATE THE INSTALLATION AND PERFORMANCE OF THESE VALVES, AND WILL HOLD ITS FIRST MEETING APRIL 11. YOUR STAFF WILL BE KEPT INFORMED OF DEVELOPMENTS AS THE WORK PROGRESSES, AND YOU WILL BE PROVIDED AS SOON AS POSSIBLE WITH A COPY OF THE FINAL REPORT ISSUED BY THE TANK CAR COMMITTEE. IN THE MEANTIME, COPIES OF YOUR LETTER WILL BE CIRCULATED TO THE CHIEF OPERATING OFFICERS OF OUR MEMBER COMPANIES FOR THEIR INFORMATION.