Static electricity cause of chemical fire, official says

Jessica Priest By Jessica Priest

Sept. 11, 2013 at 4:11 a.m.
Updated Sept. 12, 2013 at 4:12 a.m.

Static electricity caused a chemical fire Monday at a company in the 6000 block of U.S. Highway 59 north, said city of Victoria Fire Marshal Tom Legler.

Drill Green Petroleum Products' employees were pouring a toxic chemical called toluene from two plastic containers to two steel containers with a capacity to carry at least 270 gallons when a static electricity charge built up, Legler said.

The fire broke out at 1:30 p.m. Monday and forced Torres Elementary School, which was 5 miles from the blaze, to keep its students inside as a precaution.

Firefighters extinguished the blaze within an hour.

Legler did not ticket the company because the fire was an accident.

He suggested the company prevent such accidents by attaching a grounding rod to the containers that would absorb any future static electricity charges.

"We are working with them to try to make this operation safer," Legler said.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality was notified of the accident and is helping the company clean up, he said.

Toluene is a mixture added to gasoline to improve octane ratings. It also is used as a solvent in paints, synthetic fragrances and adhesives.

When a human is acutely exposed to low or moderate levels of toluene by inhalation, symptoms include fatigue, sleepiness, headaches and nausea, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.



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