Two people were killed and dozens more hospitalized after a huge acid leak at a Texas chemical plant, officials said.
Plastics manufacturer and fuel refiner LyondellBasell said there was a leak of about 100,000 pounds of acetic acid — a purified form of a key component in vinegar — at 7:35 p.m. Tuesday at its facility in La Porte.
“We are saddened to confirm two contractors were fatally injured in this incident,” the company announced later, insisting that the leak was quickly contained and had not threatened the surrounding area.
Another 30 workers were taken to local hospitals, the company said, including at least one who was life-flighted. At least four suffered burns, Harris County Fire Marshal Laurie Christensen told reporters at the scene.
They will continue to be monitored for symptoms that could include difficulty breathing and swallowing and irritants or burns to the skin, officials said.
“We deeply regret this incident occurred,” said the company, which bills itself as “one of the largest plastics, chemicals and refining companies in the world.”
“We are keeping the families of the injured in our thoughts, and our prayers go out to their families.”
LyondellBasell said the plant, about 25 miles outside Houston, had been closed for routine maintenance earlier in the day, but it was not yet clear what caused the deadly incident.
“Air monitoring continues to demonstrate no levels of concern for the community,” the company stressed.
“We want to understand what happened and why, so learnings from this can be applied throughout our company to help prevent a similar incident from happening again,” the company insisted.
The contractors who were killed were not immediately identified.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo — the head of the local governing body — tweeted that she was “heartbroken to hear of the two fatalities.”
According to LyondellBasell, acetic acid is an important “raw material for the production” of other chemicals “used in the manufacture of paints, adhesives, paper coatings, textile treatments and plastics.” It is also used in the production of “coatings, inks, adhesives and cosmetics.”
While vinegar contains acetic acid, it is only about 5 percent of the compound.
In purified forms found in the plant, it is highly flammable and can cause serious skin burns, eye damage and breathing problems through dangerous vapors, according to safety data on the firm’s website.
Based in Rotterdam, LyondellBasell in February was listed in Fortune magazine’s “World’s Most Admired Companies” for the fourth consecutive year.
The company makes food packaging and water pipes, and its petrol refinery helps improve “the safety, comfort and fuel efficiency of many of the cars and trucks on the road,” the company says.
It sells products to more than 100 countries and “is the world’s largest producer of polypropylene compounds and the largest licensor of polyolefin technologies,” its website says.
With Post wires