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Chemical Leak Shuts Down South Carolina Interstate

Posted on 7/29/2022 by Roger Marks

On July 27 at about 5:45 PM, a chemical release from a specialty chemicals facility near Interstate 20 in Elgin, SC led local officials to close a ten-mile stretch of highway as emergency crews worked to contain the leak.

A plume or ‘white haze” seen in the area was determined to be a vapor mix of nitric acid and nitrogen oxides (NOx) that leaked from a tank outside of the facility. The facility was immediately evacuated and no injuries were reported.

To protect the public, officials established a perimeter around the facility while the incident was investigated. The South Carolina Department of Health (DHEC) stated that, based on the information available, there are no public health concerns. 

Following the incident, the company released a statement that reads in part: 
 
First and foremost, we have the highest regard for the safety of our employees, our environment, and our neighbors. All employees were evacuated immediately, and there was full notification to the authorities. There were no injuries. The authorities are on site assisting in response and have set up a secure perimeter. They are assessing the situation to determine when that perimeter can be reduced. We are following their lead, and providing full technical support throughout this incident to ensure the safety of the people around us is maintained until the event is complete. We will not bring the unit back online until we can complete a full investigation and understand the source of the issue.
 
The company updated its statement at 7 AM on July 29:
 
All plant operations have returned to normal operating status. The vessel involved in the incident has been taken out of service until all internal investigations are complete, repairs have been made, and it is returned to normal production.

The statement was posted to the Kershaw County Facebook page.

What are Nitrogen Oxides (NOx)?

Nitrogen oxides are a group of highly reactive gases that includes nitrogen dioxide (NO2), nitrous acid, and nitric acid. Exposure to high concentrations of nitrogen oxides can irritate the respiratory system.

NOx are among the “criteria pollutants” for which US EPA has set National Ambient Air Quality Standards or NAAQS. In areas where the concentration level rises above the NAAQS, facilities face more stringent pollution control, reporting, and permitting requirements for building or modifying sources of air pollution.

When they interact with oxygen, water, and atmospheric substances, nitrogen oxides can contribute to the phenomenon of acid rain.

Chemical Leak Shuts Down South Carolina Interstate

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