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Ineos pipeline releases ammonia; sheriff concerned by notice

By Sonny Long
June 4, 2013 at 1:04 a.m.
Updated June 5, 2013 at 1:05 a.m.


A Matter of time

According to different sources, the all-clear was given for the ammonia release at the Port of Port Lavaca-Point Comfort at differing times.

• 7:30 a.m. - Said Charles Saunders, Ineos spokesman

• 7:39 a.m. - Said Calhoun County Sheriff George Aleman, whose dispatchers logged the call they received

• 8:15 a.m. - Said Laurel Cahill, Alcoa spokeswoman whose plant sheltered its employees in place since before 6:30 a.m.

Employees at the Alcoa plant in Point Comfort sheltered in place about two hours Tuesday morning following an ammonia leak from a nearby Ineos pipeline at the Port of Port Lavaca-Point Comfort.

About 300 employees and contractors who work at the site were affected, said Laurel Cahill, Alcoa spokeswoman.

"I arrived at the plant at 6:30 a.m. and people were sheltered in place at that time," Cahill said.

Cahill said the plant received the all-clear at 8:15 a.m.

Ineos spokesman Charles Saunders confirmed an ammonia release but did not verify the source of the leak.

"We don't believe it is a reportable quantity as it stands right now," Saunders said.

That threshold is determined by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, said Saunders.

Terry Clawson, TCEQ manager of media relations, said the agency was aware of the incident.

"The TCEQ did not initially have information on this incident as it was a nonreportable release," Clawson said. "The company is required to maintain a record of the release, but is not required to provide a report."

Ineos did issue a shelter in place as a precautionary measure only. No injuries or impacts were reported, said Clawson.

Based on information obtained from Ineos, 70.84 pounds of anhydrous ammonia was released, Clawson added.

Saunders did not know if any other businesses were affected by the ammonia release. He said the all clear was given at 7:30 a.m.

Calhoun County Sheriff George Aleman is concerned that his department did not receive any notification from Ineos, which has pipelines at the port's dock.

"We never got a call from Ineos," said the sheriff. "We got a call from Alcoa, and that was more than an hour after it occurred."

Aleman said the sheriff's office was called at 7:39 a.m. and told of the release from an Ineos line at the docks.

"We have a populated area in the city of Point Comfort near by, so that does concern me. Until I found out exactly what happened, I can't say much more."

Aleman said the sheriff's office notified Ladonna Thigpen, Calhoun County emergency management coordinator, about the release.

Ineos, whose plant is at 13050 state Highway 185 N., Port Lavaca, is a producer of acrylonitrile, acetonitrile, hydrogen cyanide and acetone cyanohydrin, chemicals with a wide range of uses, such as creating clothing, carpeting, pesticides, water treatment chemicals and more.

Product is moved from Ineos plant via pipeline to the port docks to load for transport.

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