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Negligence, improper storage design led to disaster: Committee submits report on LG Polymer gas leak incident

In its report, the committee listed 21 major reasons for the accident including improper storage design, haphazard maintenance of the old storage tank and disregard for red flags.

SNS | New Delhi |

A High Power Committee on Tuesday has submitted a report on the deadly gas leak at a South Korean-owned chemical plant in Andhra Pradesh’s Vishakhapatnam.

In the accident which happened on May 7, reportedly 12 people were killed resulting in the outrage across the nation over the operation of the plant.

The Andhra Pradesh government had set up a committee to probe the reason behind the incident.

The High Power Committee was headed by Neerabh Kumar Prasad, IAS, Special Chief Secretary to Govt, EFS&T Department.

The committee constituted of four technical experts from different spheres of Government of India which included Director-General, Central Institute of Petrochemicals Engineering & Technology; Regional Director, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Pune; Director-General, Factories Advice Service Labour Institutes and Director, NDMA, Indian Institute of Petroleum.

In its report, the committee listed 21 major reasons for the accident including improper storage design, haphazard maintenance of the old storage tank and disregard for red flags.

The temperature inside the oldest of the three storage tanks holding styrene monomer, a chemical used in making polystyrene products, rose to more than six times the permitted level due to polymerization, a chemical reaction that generates heat.

“The company management had ignored the rise in polymer content from 4th April 2020 and then the sharp rise on 25th April 2020/28th April 2020,” the committee said.

“The management considers polymer content as a quality measure for styrene rather than a safety measure,” it added.

In its report, the Committee noted that on the day of incident from 02:42 am onwards, uncontrolled Styrene Vapour Release occurred from the M6 Tank.

The incident took place at the plant of LG Polymers India Pvt Ltd in Venkatapuram. The leak occurred at around 3:30 am on May 7 at the chemical plant that was shut due to the countrywide lockdown.

People in five surrounding villages, in a three km radius were reported to have got sick after inhaling the gas, identified as Styrene.

Around 800 persons were initially rushed for treatment to various hospitals after complaining of breathing difficulties, and burning sensation in the eyes.

The plant makes polystyrene, a versatile plastic used in fiberglass, rubber and latex and for making toys and appliances among other things. Set up in 1961 as Hindustan Polymers, the company was taken over by South Korea’s LG Chem and renamed LG Polymers India in 1997.