15 July 2008 23:38 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (ICIS news)--The US Coast Guard is investigating why alarms failed to go off on Friday when a ship leaked vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) near an Occidental Chemical plant Corpus Christi, Texas, but the company said on Tuesday its monitors were operating at the time.
Thirty people were taken to the hospital, mainly as a precaution, but later released.
Coast Guard officials said on Friday that alarms onboard the vessel and at OxyChem's plant did not go off, though air monitors detecting high levels of VCM did sound at the nearby DuPont Fluoroproducts plant, said Nathan Pepper, a DuPont spokesman.
OxyChem issued a statement on Tuesday saying the monitoring system at its plant in the La Quinta marine channel was working and said the Coast Guard's investigation was focused on the ship's monitoring system.
"OxyChem and the adjacent plant both have VCM monitors," OxyChem said in the statement. "Due to the wind direction, the adjacent plant's monitors detected VCM from the ship and notified OxyChem."
If inhaled, VCM can be harmful, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
DuPont uses VCM at its plant to make propellants for products such as medical inhalers, he added.
Coast Guard officials did not return calls on Tuesday, but a Coast Guard statement said that a hazardous materials team was inspecting the VCM release and that a compressor space on the ship was suspected as the source of the leak.
($1 = €0.63)
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