certainly not something we wanted to do," David Tusinski, of
General Chemical Corp., told a meeting of the Claymont Community
Coalition on May 16. He was referring to a release of sulfur
trioxide on May 8.
the session, under a barrage of questions and critical comments,
Valerie Gray, the plant's environmental manager, admitted, "Our
performance has not been up to par."
said the release happened because "a
shift foreman did not respond and do what he was supposed to
do." He indicated that the errant foreman no longer is employed
at the plant.
started to explain the chemical makeup of sulfur trioxide and
give details of how it got into the atmosphere in the form of an
ominous cloud, several attenders interrupted her saying they
were not interested in learning what happened but wanted to be
told what was being done to prevent it from happening again.
said the company is spending $13 million this year on new
equipment and between $10 million and $11 million maintaining
existing equipment. He characterized those sums as significant
relative to the size of the Claymont plant.
rumors circulating in the Claymont area that outside contractors
with inexperienced employees are handling some critical jobs at
the plant, saying that all operations are in the hands of
trained and qualified union workers. He added that equipment is
kept in good order. "Maintenance is there and has always been
there," he said.
response to a question concerning how potentially dangerous the
plant might be, Tusinski said that "it would take a complete
absolute failure of one of our tanks [to produce] a disaster."
said that the company's chief executive officer has visited the
plant and ordered improvements in the wake of that incident and
process shutdowns which forced the neighboring Sunoco Inc.
refinery to burn off acid gas through its flare, forming sulfur dioxide. The
refinery normally sells the gas, a byproduct of petroleum
refining, to General Chemical.
the coalition meeting, John Blevens, director of the Division of
Air & Waste Management, disclosed that Nicholas Di Pasquale,
secretary of natural resources & environmental control, is
personally involved in discussions with General Chemical's top
management concerning the situation and possible enforcement
that "our reliability depends on General's reliability," Sunoco
refinery manager Don Zoladkiewicz said his company is working on
developing an alternative for "flaring sulfur dioxide" when
the other company is unable to accept delivery of the gas.
not going to hide behind the flare," he said. "It (the
alternative) will not be here in three weeks or three months ...
[but] we're going to get there."
The meeting did not resolve the basic
issue of how to more quickly and effectively inform the public
about an incident and provide accurate information about the
Arthur Paul, of the Delaware
Emergency Management Agency, said a statewide system involving
automated telephone calls to people who sign up to receive them
is being developed. He claimed that will be capable of getting
the word out in a matter of minutes, but George Lossé,
president of the coalition, said an existing 'telephone tree'
arrangement is only minimally effective.
environmental control department's notification system is not
intended to be an emergency-response vehicle, the meeting was
others have called for establishment of a system using a
combination of sirens with a distinctive tone and radio
broadcasts, but the feasibility and cost of that have not been
addressed. One attender said that should be the responsibility of
the companies. "They're the ones causing the problems; it should
be up to them," he said.
companies and Honeywell Inc., which also is part of the
petrochemicals complex straddling the Delaware-Pennsylvania
border, pledged long-term efforts to maintain rapport with the
community. Lossé said they
have agreed to go beyond responding to crises and to meet at
least on a quarterly basis with the coalition.
Zoladkiewicz said the Sunoco refinery will host an 'open house'
for the public in September. General Chemical has engaged Sam
Waltz & Associates, a public relations firm specializing in
public issues concerns.