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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation R-85-073
Details
Synopsis: AT 3:45 A.M., ON JULY 30, 1983, VINYL CHLORIDE MONOMER (VCM) UNDER PRESSURE ESCAPED FROM A RAILROAD TANK CAR AT THE LOADING FACILITY WITHIN THE FORMOSA PLASTICS CORPORATION (FORMOSA) CHEMICAL MANUFACTURING PLANT AT BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA. THE RELEASED VCM WAS IGNITED BY AN UNDETERMINED SOURCE, AND A LARGE BILLOWING FIRE ENSUED. AN ADJACENT TANK CAR CONTAINING VCM WAS INVOLVED IN THE FIRE BUT DID NOT RUPTURE VIOLENTLY. TWO PERSONS WERE INJURED SERIOUSLY, TWO TANK CARS WERE DESTROYED, THREE TANK CARS WERE DAMAGED MODERATELY, AND THE LOADING FACILITY WAS DAMAGED EXTENSIVE LY. DAMAGE WAS ESTIMATED TO BE $1 MILLION.
Recommendation: THE NTSB RECOMMENDS THAT THE STATE OF LOUISIANA: EVALUATE THE ABILITY OF STATE AGENCIES CHARGED WITH ADMINISTERING SAFETY REGULATIONS IN PETROCHEMICAL PLANTS TO CARRY OUT THEIR RESPONSIBILITY, AND MAKE NECESSARY CHANGES TO INSURE REGULAR INSPECTIONS OF THESE FACILITIES.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Unacceptable 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: 6/17/1985
Date Closed: 12/20/1988
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: State of Louisiana (Closed - Unacceptable Action)
Keyword(s): Tank Car Loading and Unloading, Hazmat

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: State of Louisiana
Date: 12/20/1988
Response: The Safety Board notes that the Louisiana State Police Transportation and Environmental Safety Section has conducted routine inspections at various rail transportation facilities, and we appreciate the overview of the violations issued during the last 2 years. The inspections and enforcement, however, continue to focus on the rail car, and while the Board certainly endorses this activity, the thrust of Safety Recommendation R-85-73 is to establish regular inspections of petrochemical plants by a State agency charged with that responsibility. Based on the information the Board has received, these inspections are not being conducted. The Board can appreciate the burdens of funding such a project, however, in view of the number of petrochemical facilities in the State of Louisiana and the potential for catastrophic accidents, the Board strongly believes that the goal outlined in Safety Recommendation R-85-73 should have by now been accomplished. In view of the foregoing, Safety Recommendation R-85-73 has been placed in a "Closed-Unacceptable Action" status.

From: State of Louisiana
To: NTSB
Date: 9/30/1988
Response: CURRENTLY, THE LOUISIANA STATE POLICE TRANSPORTATION AND ENVIRONMENTAL SAFETY SECTION IS ENFORCING THOSE RAIL REGULATIONS ISSUED IN 49 CFR. SINCE JANUARY, 1988, ROUTINE INSPECTIONS HAVE BEEN CONDUCTED AT VARIOUS RAIL TRANSPORTATION FACILITIES. PREVIOUS RAIL ENFORCEMENT EFFORTS WERE LIMITED TO ENFORCEMENT RESULTING FROM INVESTIGATIONS OF CHEMICAL INCIDENTS OCCURRING DURING TRANSPORTATION. A REVIEW OF VIOLATIONS ISSUED WITHIN THE PAST TWO YEARS HAS RESULTED IN IDENTIFYING THE FOLLOWING AREAS OF CONCERN: SHIPPER RESPONSIBILITIES IN THE AREAS OF PLACARDING AND PACKAGING MUST BE CLEARLY UNDERSTOOD AND ACCEPTED BY INDUSTRY. PACKAGING AND PLACARDING VIOLATIONS ARE THE MOST FREQUENTLY CITED. UNLOADING FACILITIES OFFERING EMPTY, RESIDUE PLACARDED TANK CARS FOR TRANSPORTATION HAVE A HIGHER VIOLATION RATE. THE MOST COMMON VIOLATIONS HAVE BEEN IDENTIFIED AS UNSECURE MANWAYS AND CLOSURES, AND IMPROPER PLACARDING AND SHIPPING DOCUMENTS. DURING THE MONTHS OF APRIL AND MAY 1988, APPROXIMATELY 295 RAIL CARS WERE INSPECTED WITH 202 VIOLATIONS CITED. THE STATE POLICE RAIL ENFORCEMENT PROGRAM IS IN ITS INFANCY, BUT WITH CONTINUED GROWTH WILL CLEARLY ADDRESS THE ISSUES OF INSPECTIONS OF LOADING AND UNLOADING FACILITES. AT THIS TIME OUR ENFORCMENT EFFORT IS FOCUSED ON THE RAIL CAR WHILE IT IS IN THE TRANSPORTATION MODE. AT THE PRESENT TIME THE FEDERAL PROGRAMS OF THE NTSB, DOT, EPA AND FEMA ARE FOCUSING ON THE HAZARDOUS MATERIALS ISSUE. THE MANDATES OF SARA, TITLE III, THE LACK OF A STRONG FEDERAL ENFORCMENT PROGRAM, AND THE LACK OF ANY FEDERAL FUNDS TO IMPLEMENT THESE PROGRAMS, HAVE PLACED ADDITIONAL BURDENS ON THIS STATE. EFFORTS ARE BEING DIRECTED TO IDENTIFY SPECIFIC HAZARDOUS MATERIALS TRANSPORTATION PROBLEMS IN ORDER TO AFFORD THE CITIZENS OF LOUISIANA A SAFE ENVIRONMENT IN WHICH TO LIVE.

From: NTSB
To: State of Louisiana
Date: 8/8/1988
Response: The Safety Board has exchanged correspondence with the State of Louisiana regarding the subject of this recommendation, the most recent correspondence being a letter from the Board dated March 27, 1987, in which we again expressed concern that the State of Louisiana had yet to take the necessary steps to ensure that the loading facilities at petrochemical plants were inspected on a regular basis. In view of the time that has elapsed since our previous correspondence, the Board is again requesting an update on this issue. In order to facilitate your review of this matter, we are enclosing copies of all pertinent correspondence between the State of Louisiana and the Safety Board. As you will note, some of the correspondence addresses another Safety Recommendation, R-83-91; however, since the Board believes that action on this recommendation has been satisfactorily completed, your response should be limited to the objective outlined in Safety Recommendation R-85-73.

From: NTSB
To: State of Louisiana
Date: 3/27/1987
Response: While the Board is somewhat surprised that neither the Occupational Safety and Health Administration nor the Environmental Protection Agency were able to direct the State Police Hazardous Substance Control Section to any specific training programs regarding inspection of transportation facilities at chemical plants, the Board believes that the more appropriate contacts would be the various modal administrations of the U.S. Department of Transportation. As we indicated in our letter of June 17, 1985, the Coast Guard inspects the marine loading facility at the Formosa plant annually, and the Federal Railroad Administration has a hazardous materials inspector in New Orleans. The Board suggests that the State Police Hazardous Substance Control Section contact the various modal administrations in the U.S. Department of Transportation regarding specific training programs. The Safety Board notes that all members of the Hazardous Materials Unit of the State Police have completed training programs involving the inspection of rail cars and, in addition, have received specialized training in handling emergency response to hazardous materials accidents which involve the rail industry. However, there is no indication in your response that these officers will be utilized for conducting regular inspections of petrochemical plants, which is the subject of the Board's recommendation. Further, your current response does not address the efforts of any other State agency, such as the State Fire Marshal, which also has jurisdiction over these loading facilities. Because the board had been informed during the course of its investigation of the July 30, 1983, accident that the State Fire Marshal's office lacked the resources, manpower, and expertise to inspect these facilities, the Board inquired in its previous correspondence if any effort wold be made to allocate funds to this office for the purpose of enhancing its capabilities to inspect these loading facilities. Based on your current response, the Board remains concerned that there has been little effort made to provide the necessary resources to the appropriate agencies and, consequently, no change in the frequency of inspections since the accident. The Safety Board again urges the State of Louisiana to take the necessary steps to ensure that the loading facilities at the petrochemical plants are inspected on a regular basis. Pending further response to the Board's concerns, Safety Recommendation R-85-73 will remain in an "Open-Unacceptable Action" status.

From: State of Louisiana
To: NTSB
Date: 2/2/1987
Response: PLEASE PARDON MY DELAY IN RESPONDING TO YOUR LETTER OF OCT. 1986, EXPRESSING DISAPPOINTMENT WITH PROGRESS MADE BY THE ST OF LOUISIANA ON SAFETY RECOMMENDATION R-85-73. MEMBERS OF T STATE POLICE HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCE CONTROL SECTION WERE TASKED ATTEMPTING TO LOCATE TRAINING WHICH WOULD ENABLE THEM TO QUA AS INSPECTORS OF TRANSPORTATION FACILITIES AT CHEMICAL PLANT THEIR SEARCH FOR TRAINING IN THESE AREAS HAS TO DATE TURNED COURSE OF INSTRUCTION WHICH WOULD QUALIFY TO TROOPER TO INSP TRANSPORTATION LOADING FACILITIES. I MIGHT ADD THAT SEARCH INCLUDED CONTACTING BOTH THE OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION AND THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY. THESE AGENCIES WERE INABLE TO DIRECT US TO ANY SPECIFIC TRAI PROGRAMS WHICH WOULD DEVELOP THE EXPERTISE REQUIRED TO CONDU THESE INSPECTIONS. WE DO RECOGNIZE THE POTENTIAL FOR A CATA PHIC ACCIDENT IN AN AREA SUCH AS BATON ROUGE BUT FEEL THAT O ON-GOING RELATIONSHIP WITH THE CHEMICAL INDUSTRIES THROUGHOU LOUISIANA ARE MORE THAN ADEQUATE TO INSURE THE SAFETY OF THE CITIZENS OF OUR STATE. THE HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCE CONTROL UNIT THE STATE POLICE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR INSURING THE SAFE TRANSP TATION OF HAZARDOUS MATERIALS IN LOUISIANA, AND THIS RESPONS LITY REQUIRES THAT THE STATE POLICE MAINTAIN A CLOSE WORKING LATIONSHIP WITH THE CHEMICAL INDUSTRY TO INSURE THIS SAFE MO MENT OF CHEMICALS. I AM SATISFIED THAT GIVEN THE FINANCIAL TRAINTS PLACED ON THE STATE POLICE, THEY ARE DOING AS MUCH A POSSIBLE TO INSURE THE SAFETY AND WELL-BEING OF THE CITIZENS LOUISIANA. WITH REGARD TO THE TRAINING OF STATE POLICE OFFI IN INSPECTION OF RAIL CARS, WE HAVE NOW COMPLETED SENDING AL THE MEMBERS OF THE HAZARDOUS MATERIALS UNIT (8 MEN) TO TRAIN PROGRAMS INVOLVING THE INSPECTION OF RAIL CARS FOR COMPLIANC WITH THE FEDERAL REGULATIONS WHICH HAVE BEEN ADOPTED AS LAW LOUISIANA. IN ADDITION, THESE OFFICERS HAVE RECEIVED SPECIA TRAINING IN HANDLING EMERGENCY RESPONSE TO HAZARDOUS MATERIA ACCIDENTS WHICH INVOLVE THE RAIL INDUSTRY. THIS TRAINING WA CONDUCTED AT THE TRANSPORTATION TEST CENTER IN PUEBLO, COLOR THESE OFFICERS WILL, IN ADDITION TO OTHER DUTIES, BE UTILIZE EMERGENCY RESPONSE TO HAZARDOUS MATERIALS RELATED RAIL ACCID AND FOR ENFORCEMENT ACTIVITIES RELATED TO THE TRANSPORTATION HAZARDOUS MATERIALS BY RAIL. AS I STATED IN EARLIER CORRESP DENCE, I WELCOME AND ENCOURAGE INCREASED SUPPORT FROM THOSE ERAL AGENCIES WITH SIMILAR SAFETY RESPONSIBILITIES TO WORK W OUR STATE POLICE IN DEVELOPING INCREASED SAFETY PROCEDURES A OUTLINED IN YOUR RECOMMENDATION.

From: NTSB
To: State of Louisiana
Date: 10/27/1986
Response: The Safety Board is disappointed in noting that little progress has been made in conducting regular inspections of petrochemical plants. While the Board can appreciate the need to direct State Police resources to the highway mode, we again point out the potential for a catastrophic accident in an area such as Baton Rouge with a dense concentration of petrochemical plants and, consequently, the need for inspecting these plants regularly. The Board would appreciate being informed if a concerted effort will be made to allocate funds to either the State Police or the State Fire Marshal's office, which also has jurisdiction over these facilities, for this purpose. During the investigation of the Baton Rouge accident, the Safety Board was informed that the State Police had sent two officers to school for training in the inspection of railroad cars. The Board would appreciate being informed if this training has been completed, in what capacity the Police intends to use these officers, and if additional officers will receive training in this area. Pending a further response to these Safety Board concerns, Safety Recommendation R-85-73 will be held in an "Open-Unacceptable Action" status.

From: State of Louisiana
To: NTSB
Date: 8/28/1986
Response: WITH REGARD TO THE NTSB RECOMMENDATION THAT THE LOUISIANA AGENCY RESPONSIBLE FOR IN-PLANT SAFETY INSPECTION MAKE NECESSARY CHANGES TO INSURE REGULAR INSPECTIONS OF THESE FACILITIES, I MUST REGRETTABLY REPORT THAT WE HAVE MADE LITTLE PROGRESS TOWARD THE GOAL OF INCREASED INSPECTIONS. THE HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCE CONTROL SECTION OF THE LOUISIANA STATE POLICE HAS THE POWER TO INSPECT AND ENFORCE REGULA TIONS PURSUANT TO THE TRANSPORTATION OF HAZARDOUS MATERIALS BY ANY MODE IN THE STATE OF LOUISIANA. HOWEVER, WE HAVE DETERMINED THAT THE GREATEST THREAT TO THE CITIZENS OF OUR STATE LIES IN THE HIGHWAY TRANSPORTATION MODE AND WE HAVE THEREFORE DIRECTED THE MAJORITY OF OUR MEAGER RESOURCES TOWARD THIS SECTOR. THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT WE ARE GOING TO IGNORE OBVIOUS SAFETY VIOLATIONS WHEN THEY OCCUR. THE STATE POLICE HAS CONDUCTED NUMEROUS RAIL-PIPELINE AND WATER RELATED TRANSPORT INVESTIGATIONS OF SAFETY VIOLATIONS. IN ADDITION, WE HAVE PARTICIPATED WITH SEVERAL AGENCIES OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, SUCH AS THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY AND THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION (FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION AND FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION), IN IM PORTANT INVESTIGATIONS RELATING TO THE TRANSPORTATION OF HAZARDOUS MATERIALS. THE STATE POLICE AT MY DIRECTION WILL CONTINUE THESE PURSUITS AND, WHEN THE FINANCIAL SITUATION IN LOUISIANA IMPROVES, WE WILL ATTEMPT TO INCREASE THE SAFETY ENFORCEMENT ACTIVITIES OF THIS AGENCY. I WELCOME AND ENCOURAGE THE INCREASED SUPPORT OF THOSE FEDERAL AGENCIES WHICH HAVE SIMILAR SAFETY FUNCTIONS AND RESPONSIBILITIES TO WORK WITH STATE POLICE IN DEVELOPING SAFETY INSPECTION PRO CEDURES AS CALLED FOR IN YOUR RECOMMENDATION.

From: NTSB
To: State of Louisiana
Date: 7/30/1986
Response: Our records show that we have not received a response to our June 17, 1985, recommendation letter. The Safety Board is vitally interested in any actions taken as a result of its Safety Recommendations, and we would appreciate being informed as to what efforts are being made to implement Safety Recommendation R-85-73. The Board's June 17, 1985, recommendation letter is enclosed for your information.