Locked out steelworkers issue statement about plant leak

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Web Editor - Jay Marchmon

The United Steelworkers Local 7-669 official statement:

 

Metropolis, IL- At approximately 3pm, picketers outside the Honeywell Metropolis uranium conversion facility noticed a large plume from the Hydrofluoric Acid(HF) Storage area.  The plants mitigation towers, which spray water to knock down any escaping gas, were turned on and sirens were heard.  The siren was turned on, then immediately off, and then later on again. The towers sprayed for approximately an hour and a half.

Honeywell has been running the plant with replacement workers since locking out the union workforce on June 28, 2010.  Peter Dalpe, Honeywell spokesman, was quoted in a statement immediately following the event as saying, “all  emergency response procedures and equipment functioned as designed.” However 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.  Early calculations estimate that as much as 64,000 gallons of contaminated water could have reached the river.

United Steelworkers Local 7-669 President, Darrell Lillie, said “We have been warning everyone for months that there is the possibility of a fatality and major breach of public safety at this plant,” and added, “The workers in the plant do not have the experience it takes to safely run this facility.”

The plant has been recently cited for violations by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and is under and EPA investigation concerning improper storage of Potassium Hydroxide(KOH).  Honeywell has played down the seriousness of the events that have taken place during the 6 month long lockout.

“The community should be outraged at the way the facility is being operated and their safety at risk, and demand that someone take action before this becomes the present day Katrina,” Lillie said.

Honeywell put out a statement that this was a “small release” of HF, however, the experienced workers of the plant, who could do nothing but  watch from the picket line, know that a “small” release doesn’t require the mitigation towers to run for over an hour.

Gary Lewis, a 14 year veteran of the plant was on the picket line when the event happened and said, “I heard the sirens and seen a large cloud of HF over the tank farm,” and added, “HF is nothing to play with, it can kill you.”

The storage tank that failed was full and holds approximately 150,000 pounds of HF.  The site typically has close to 500,000 pounds on site.  Studies show that if even 10% of the HF onsite is released, it could travel up to a 25 mile radius and affect as many as 175,000 people.

Darrell Lillie added, “If they continue to have ‘fender benders’ like they had today, it is a matter of when not if there is a ‘head on collision.’”

The 228 members of United Steelworkers Local 7-669 have been locked out since June 28, 2010.

 

For the official Honeywell statement, click here.

For the original story, click here.

For the 6pm coverage, click here.

For the 10pm coverage, including community reactions, click here.

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