Aug 27, 2007

Methanol Spill Probed at GE Plastic Plant

A spill of 80 gallons of methanol at a GE Plastics plant in Selkirk, N.Y., last week did not cause any injuries or evacuations, but officials are still taking the incident seriously.

According to the Times Union, the flammable, hazardous chemical, also known as wood alcohol, was diluted in some 1,000 gallons of wastewater that leaked into the soil on two occasions.

State environmental officials are currently investigating the cause of the spill to decide if the company should face a fine, as well as determine what GE needs to do to prevent future spills.

Rick Georgeson, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Conservation, told the Times Union that GE had the contaminated soil excavated and trucked to a landfill for disposal, for which it has a permit.

DEC is now requiring the company to test groundwater in the area by drilling two wells. However, since the soil was made of tightly compacted clay, the methanol did not appear to travel far and groundwater was not contaminated.

Methanol is a flammable liquid that is a building block for many chemical products, including plastics.

530 people are employed at GE Plastics’ Selkirk factory, where the company produces polymer pellets that are mixed with resins to color the plastics for use in industries such as automotive, computer and electronics.