July 8, 2002

The Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control is working with General Chemical Corp. to develop a solution to the problem of chemical leaks that have plagued the Claymont area for several weeks.

"The second cloud last week was too much," Representative Robert Valihura said, referring to the July 2 release into the atmosphere from the General Chemical plant of  fluorosulfonic acid, sulfur trioxide and anhydrous hydrogen fluoride, all of which are said to be highly toxic chemicals and present a major health threat.

That release evidently came from a railroad tank car. An earlier major release was blamed on a faulty valve. In addition, there have been other incidents both at General Chemical and the adjacent Sun Oil refinery. Sun has had to burn off acid gas that General Chemical was unable to accept because of faulty equipment. Sun sells the gas, a byproduct of refining to the chemical company.

Valihura said that he and Senator Cathy Cloutier pressed the natural resources department "to find out what they were doing about it."

Secretary Nicolas DiPasquale told the lawmakers that he was attempting to remedy the situation through a combination of penalties and 'remediation efforts'.

Valihura said he was "not at liberty" to disclose details of a proposed consent agreement which the company is being asked to accept. The legislator indicated that an alternative to the agreement would be for the state to file suit, but said that DiPasquale "would prefer a voluntary solution."

It is possible, Valihura said, that agreement will be reached in time for disclosure at a public meeting on July 11 at 7 p.m. in the Claymont Elementary School auditorium.

Both DiPasquale and General Chemical officials have agreed to attend that meeting along with the other Brandywine Hundred legislators, according to a notice issued by the legislators' office.

"We feel the public has the right to vent their feelings and to be told what is going on," Valihura said.

A similar public session, sponsored by the Claymont Coalition in May drew promises of steps to alleviate the problems at both the chemical plant and the refinery.

"Neither proposed legislation, nor administrative action has abated the nuisance of the highly toxic chemical releases at these facilities.  The public is demanding solutions to the problems at General Chemical -- problems that appear to be
worsening," the statement quotes Cloutier as saying. 

"I see this fundamentally as a managerial problem," Valihura said. "We don't have these problems with the Du Pont or Conectiv plants."

2002. All rights reserved.

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