Andhra Pradesh

Directorate of Factories faults LG Polymers for styrene leak

In a report to the National Green Tribunal (NGT), the Directorate of Factories has faulted the management of LG Polymers India for the leakage of styrene monomer (SM) vapour on May 7 that killed 12 persons and hospitalised over 500 in the city.

“The management has failed to understand and manage the impact of changes in the storage of styrene monomer due to the lockdown,” the Directorate of Factories said in its report.

The Government of Andhra Pradesh had announced resumption of industrial operations from May 4, and the management of LG Polymers proposed to resume activity from May 7.

“When the top layer of SM is more vulnerable to polymerisation in the tank, samples had been taken only from the bottom of the tank. Even after detecting a sudden rise in polymer content in SM at the bottom, no attempts were made to understand the condition at the top of the tank,” the report said.

The Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) constituted by the NGT too had stated in its report that there was no temperature measuring apparatus at the middle and top levels of the tank.

The Directorate of Factories also pointed out that there was no mechanism to monitor the level of dissolved oxygen in the tank, as a result of which TBC, a polymerisation inhibitor, could not be added. This was a vital safety requirement. No attempts were made for putting the SM in circulation in the tank, it said.

The NGT, in its order on June 1, had stated that the unit was operating without prior Environment Clearance from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).

The NGT order also stated that issuance of the statutory Consent for Establishment (CFE) and Consent for Operation (CFO) by the A.P. Pollution Control Board (APPCB) for expansion of the company lacked clarity.

Subsequently, the PCB withdrew the consent given to the company and issued the ‘stop production’ order on May 7. The company, in a letter on May 11, had said that the plant would be kept under shutdown till necessary approvals were obtained.

The root cause

The NGT report also said that the root cause appeared to be lack of experience of LG Polymers India and its Korean holding company, LG Chem, in monitoring and maintaining full tanks of styrene, which were kept idle for a long period without operation. This led to rise in temperature, which had gone unnoticed, causing auto polymerisation and creation of vapour that leaked out through the goose neck and dip hatch.

Mincing no words, the NGT order held the managing director of the unit, the certified safety officer, and the safety and production departments accountable for the lapses.

It also highlighted the role of issuing the safety certificate to the factory, as periodic inspection was the primary responsibility of the Department of Industries, Factories and Boilers.

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Printable version | Aug 5, 2021 9:32:45 PM |

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