Leak at Honeywell plant triggers alarm
METROPOLIS, Il--"This is a big warning sign, and it doesn't need to be ignored." Those words from union workers locked out of the Metropolis Honeywell plant nearly 180 days ago.
For the official Honeywell statement, click here.
To read the United Steelworkers statement, click here.
For the original story, click here.
For the 6pm coverage, click here.
Those workers, out on the picket line, were some of the first to see a huge plume of hydrofluoric acid released from the plant and going into the atmosphere this afternoon. A Honeywell spokesperson says they've stopped the leak and the situation is now under control.
Union workers say the release is a lot bigger than Honeywell is letting on.
The union released a statement saying in part:
"The union received a report from inside the plant, on a condition of anonymity, that the knife gate valve which prevents the contaminated water from going into the Ohio River, did not close."
They went on to say "early calculations estimate that as much as 64,000 gallons of contaminated water could have reached the river."
Honeywell says the union's statement about the knife gate is completely false.
Honeywell spokesman Peter Dalpe released a statement saying;
"As it has done in the past, the union is misstating what happened at the plant today to advance its own agenda. to make false assertions based on hearsay and unnamed sources is irresponsible."
But the union claims the public can no longer trust the company.
They say the company is calling what happened today a small leak, but that it wasn't small at all.
They saw the HF acid coming from that storage tank holds approximately 150-thousand pounds of that stuff, and to blunt, it can kill you.
While picketing, Gary Lewis saw it all.
"It was a big plume of HF, it looked to me like, it was bad."
And he would know what hydrofluoric acid looks like, he's worked here for 14 years.
He says this is the temporary worker's fault.
"They don't have no earthly idea what they're working around, a lot of them don't I gauarantee you, it's a dangerous place," Lewis says.
Union President Darrell Lillie said from day one that Honeywell's replacement workers jeopardized public safety.
"They've had incident after incident after incident, it's just a matter of time," Lillie says.
Before something worse happens, Lillie says the company should consider today's potentially deadly "mistake" a big warning.
The warning signs are here, if something's not done, there's going to be a head on collision here, and when I say head on I'm talking about a catastrophic event," Lillie says.
A Honeywell spokesperson released this statement:
Honeywell is committed to the safe operation of the plant. the response to the leak this afternoon demonstrates that the company's emergency procedures and protocols work as designed. as a result, there were no injuries and no off-site impact.
Lillie says next time, they may not be so lucky.
People in Metropolis have different opinions.
But they all say safety should be top priority.
Honeywell says today they diluted the hydorfluoric acid by water and that water was collected into a containment system, the fluorine levels were checked.
They say the levels were OK so that water was released into the storm water system.
The union says seven years ago, a leak similar to this one occurred while they were in the plant.