Authorities responded to a chemical leak at the LyondellBasell plant in Edison, NJ that resulted in a chemical cloud being released in the area and two people being taken to the local hospital with respiratory issues. Local residents were ordered to shelter in place.
According to Edison Deputy Fire Chief, Andrew Toth Jr., the release consisted of 200 gallons of titanium tetrachloride, a volatile liquid that forms opaque clouds of titanium dioxide and hydrated hydrogen chloride after making contact with humid air. He went on to say “We set up a command post and sent out Nixle alerts telling people to stay in their house due to fire department activity. We notified all the neighboring towns and the cloud dissipated fairly quickly.”
LyondellBasell’s Public Relations Lead, Megan Borchers, issued the following statement via email. “At approximately 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, August 23, 2020, our Edison Plant located on Meadow Dr. experienced a leak from a distillation column. The leak involved material used as a catalyst for the production of plastic. We quickly isolated and contained the leak, and no employee injuries were reported as a result of the event…Our plant is equipped with a state-of-the-art leak detection and deluge system which deployed water as soon as the release occurred. Our on-site incident response team was immediately activated. Unfortunately, the leak resulted in a visible cloud, which has since dissipated…The health and safety of our workforce and the community is our first priority. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused our neighbors.”
The State Department of Environmental Protection has been called in to determine why the leak occurred and how much exposure there has been to the community. A DEP spokesperson stated “As a result of the vapor release, the DEP’s Waste Enforcement Program will review documentation that the facility is required to submit in accordance with the Discharges of Petroleum and Other Hazardous Substances rules as well as the Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act. The DEP’s Air Enforcement Program also has requested information from the facility about the vapor release. The DEP will initiate an investigation, if warranted.”
Jeff Tittle, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, issued the following statement regarding the DEP’s investigation. “This is especially important due to the size of this facility and the hazardous chemicals involved in its operation. LyonndellBasell has a terrible track record when it comes to resiliency and it’s critical that they are held accountable by the DEP…We hope everyone is okay and fully recovered after the serious leak incident at the Edison chemical plant. Almost 200 gallons of the hazardous chemical, Titanium Tetrachloride was released into the air causing at least two people to be treated for respiratory issues. This chemical has serious health impacts, especially when breathed in. TiCL can severely irritate and burn the skin, eyes, nose, and throat. It can irritate the lungs, cause coughing, and shortness of breath. At higher exposure, this chemical can build up in the lungs. What is even more concerning is TiCL is a reactive chemical and an explosive hazard…DEP needs to find out what happened in Edison and hold this chemical company accountable to see if they violated any regulations or standards.”