07 April 1994 00:00 [Source: ICB]
SHELL CHEMICALS faces a group action lawsuit from local residents who claim they suffered health problems following the explosion at the firm's Belpre, Ohio site on 27 May. It is now known that three workers died in the blaze (ECN 6 June page 4).
Shell said it plans to challenge the allegations in court if necessary. 'We strongly deny the allegation that Shell has failed to adopt and follow proper safety standards', it has said.
Parallel investigations by Shell and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are continuing. Shell now believes the explosion may have been caused by a disproportionate amount of butadiene in a reactor vessel which combines butadiene with other chemicals. This may have started a reaction which caused a pressure build up in the reactor leading to vessel failure and explosion.
The US Environmental Protection Agency, which is also investigating the incident, published an administrative order requiring Shell to clean up the site and the Ohio river. Contrary to earlier statements made to ECN, it is now known that ethylene dibromide - a carcinogen - was discharged into the river when a retention pond containing runoff water overflowed. The pollution forced local communities to cut off water supplies.
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