Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Terra Facing Action

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Terra Facing Action

Article excerpt

Byline: Simon Haworth

Legal action could be launched against Terra Nitrogen UK following yesterday's huge chemical plant blast on Teesside.

The explosion at the Haverton Hill Road site in Billingham shook Teesside in the early hours of yesterday and could be heard 20 miles away.

A joint investigation has now been launched by the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive.

Legal action by the agencies is a possibility once the investigation is complete.

Investigators will focus on why hydrogen leaked from a pipe and ignited. Early investigations suggest fail-safe mechanisms at the plant appear to have worked following the blast and no toxic gases are thought to have escaped into the atmosphere.

The ferocious blaze is believed to have turned any gases into water vapour.

The plant was last visited by Environment Agency inspectors only a month ago and no problems were found.

Lessons learned from the incident will be shared across the chemical industry on Teesside and throughout the UK.

Terra Nitrogen UK are working with the Government bodies on their investigation.

Bob Pailor, area environment manager for the Environment Agency, said: "It looks like there was a leak then an explosion and a fire, the pipe has lost pressure therefore the fire went out within minutes.

"The supply of gas that fed the pipe fire was stopped immediately. All the fail-safes appear to have worked but we will be looking into that in more detail in our investigation."

Mr Pailor said it is unlikely there were any polluting chemicals released into the atmosphere by the blast.

He said: "There is no reason to believe anything toxic left the site. The plant will be allowed to start up again only when it is safe to do so.

"Obviously we will carry out a detailed investigation that will look into every detail of what led up to the incident and how it came to happen. …

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