Materials maker Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (Sabic) has been fined more than $300,000 by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for a styrene monomer leak at its plant in Selkirk, N.Y.
The leak occurred in September 2020 and resulted in more than 22,000 pounds of styrene vapor being released. The DEC announced the $322,400 fine in an April 13 news release.
"Today, DEC is holding Sabic accountable for creating a dangerous situation that threatened the health and safety of employees, emergency responders and the surrounding community," DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said in the release.
"These enforcement actions include a substantial penalty and require Sabic to improve its operations to protect the surrounding community and the environment from further violations and prevent future emergencies," Seggos said.
According to the release, styrene vapor was released from a railcar through its pressure relief valve and manway into the atmosphere. Emergency responders, including police, fire and governmental agencies, responded to the facility. That response required multiple road closures, a shelter-in-place order for the public within a 1-mile radius and a public evacuation order within a half-mile of the facility, officials said.
DEC's investigation revealed improper handling and storage of hazardous substances, improper maintenance and repair of the railcar, violations of air pollution regulations and an unauthorized release of a hazardous substance. In addition, DEC's inspection found 29 violations of the facility's Air Title V permit, unrelated to the styrene release.
In addition to the penalties, DEC's orders require Sabic to undertake a comprehensive third-party audit of the facility's hazardous substance management and to develop recommendations for DEC staff review and to develop new operating procedures and employee training protocols.
In a statement sent to Plastics News, Sabic communications leader Susan Richardson said that the firm responded quickly to the incident, immediately notified authorities and stabilized the situation the same day.
"Sabic fully cooperated with the investigation … and is committed to safely operating in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations," she added.
Regarding the requested changes, Richardson said deviations were self-reported by Sabic from 2018 through 2020. She added that the firm "promptly addressed each issue at the time" and "has implemented corrective measures to ensure strict compliance with all applicable laws and regulations."
No injuries were reported from the incident. Styrene monomer is used as a feedstock to make polystyrene and other plastics. Sabic makes specialty resins and compounds in Selkirk, including some based on its Noryl product line. The site also is used for materials research and development.
Sabic is a global supplier of commodity and engineering resins that employs 33,000. The firm is based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with U.S. headquarters in Houston.