LONDON (CNI)--The Environment Agency (EA) for England and Wales and the UK Health & Safety Executive (HSE) have commenced a formal joint investigation into the leak of hydrochloric acid (HCl) at EVC's vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) production plant at Runcorn, Cheshire in northwest England.
An EA spokesman told CNI today that the investigation would seek to establish what caused the leak and advise on any future action that might be necessary.
The EVC facility, which is located within the greater Runcorn chemicals complex operated by ICI, is a control of major accident hazards (Comah) site, the EA spokesman explained. "As such, the HSE and Environment Agency work together as the competent authorities to investigate accidents," he added.
Less than 1 tonne of HCl gas was released to the atmosphere, according to local police and EA estimates. "The effect on the atmosphere of this amount is going to be negligible".
EVC, which is conducting its own investigation into the incident, confirmed that residents living near the plant had been advised to stay indoors. The company added that residents had since been given the all-clear to resume normal activity. It added that there were no reports of any serious injuries although a few people experienced some eye and throat irritation and were being assessed at a local hospital.
Production from the plant was not affected by the leak and the EA spokesman confirmed that his agency had not requested the shutdown of any facilities.