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Let the engineers run the chemical plant

As a chemical process and systems engineer, I strongly object to the stand by the West Virginia government that chemical distributors are not processing chemicals. I am a retired principle engineer with 29 years experience with Union Carbide.

My first teenage job was with a chemical distributor. I know what I am talking about. As we have learned, just because a chemical reaction does not take place at such places as Freedom Industries does not mean that there is no possible environmental and community impact.

Chemicals are pumped into tanks and discharge vent gases that can be toxic and smelly. The tanks sit in the sun and more chemical vapors discharge. Pumps, tanks and pipes develop leaks and need to be in contained areas that collect leaks.

Safety equipment such as pressure relief devices need to be installed and inspected regularly. If drums of material are used, the drums frequently develop holes that leak.

My first teenage job included dumping such drums in an adjacent field along with drums that we mixed wrong. Samples taken should be disposed of properly. Tanks have to be inspected for thickness and not have chemicals put in them that they were not designed and reviewed for.

I recommend the Freedom Industries plant be audited by a reputable independent engineering firm such as MATRIC.

I recommend all sites in West Virginia that have chemical storage tanks be regulated by the Department of Environmental Protection and proper practices like diking to contain the entire contents of the largest tank and safety relief device documentation be demanded. This includes tanks used in fracking sites as well as any location where chemicals or chemical-laced water can be spilled.

The major chemical manufacturing companies have learned this over the years, but the minor chemical distributors and users need to have the same rules enforced. The government and the companies need to realize the public is now acutely aware of the shoddy practices some have been allowed to get away with.

Many companies are run by financial types who will just cut and run if something goes wrong, leaving the rest of us to pick up the dirty socks.  

Just look at some company's board of directors sometime for all the bank and equity fund people. They are just in it for the buck. Make them let the engineers do their job and run a proper plant.

Kirk Sorensen

Valley Head


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