TDEC calls September, 2017 Wacker Chemie explosion "unavoidable"
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) has issued its report on the September 7th, 2017 explosion at the Wacker Chemie plant in Charleston, Tennessee. TDEC's report concludes that the accident was caused by "an unavoidable failure of process equipment" and recommends no enforcement action be taken against the company.
Wacker suspended operations after the incident, and has remained closed for the last 9 months to correct what went wrong.
Here's what the report says happened on September 7th, 2017:
At approximately 3:47 PM there was an equipment failure in the T-103 compressor room in the hydrogen recovery building (Building B156). The piston in the #2 cylinder became structurally compromised and allowed hydrogen gas to enter an adjoining variable frequency drive room. The control room operator stopped the process and halted the flow of process gasses to the compressor. At approximately 4:00 PM the hydrogen gas that had entered the variable frequency drive room was ignited by an electrical component and resulted in the explosion and subsequent fire.
A shelter in place order was issued for all employees in the plant, and residents of Charleston were also advised to stay indoors.
Though TDEC says it will not take corrective action, the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (TOSHA) fined Wacker for the September explosion and an explosion the previous month that sent 17 people to the hospital.
Word about the explosion didn't travel as smoothly as residents and officials would have liked. That prompted a change in how to alert the public, put in place earlier this year in the Charleston area where Wacker and other chemical plants are.
Read the full TDEC report below: