Mar 13, 2007

Water Environment Federation and Methanol Institute Launch Safety Program

Tallahassee, Fla.—Today the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released their final report of an investigation into the fatal methanol tank explosion at the Bethune Point wastewater treatment plant in Daytona Beach, Fla. The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents.
The report lists a number of recommendations to help prevent similar accidents from occurring in the future, including a call for the Water Environment Federation and the Methanol Institute to work together to promote methanol safety at wastewater treatment facilities. Many wastewater plants add methanol to accelerate the biodegradation of excess nitrogen, and reduce nitrogen loading of sensitive aquifers from plant effluent. Excess nitrogen flowing from wastewater facilities contributes to an over-growth of algae, which can lead to hypoxia (oxygen depletion), stressing aquatic organisms forming to “dead zones” in affected rivers, lakes and seas.
The Alexandria, Va.-based Water Environment Federation (WEF) is a not-for-profit technical and educational organization. The Arlington, Va.-based Methanol Institute (MI), serves as the trade association for the global methanol industry.
In early March, WEF and MI launched an aggressive safety awareness campaign in response to the CSB recommendations. On March 5, an MI official addressed 300 wastewater professionals attending a WEF specialty conference on nutrient removal to discuss the CSB findings. At the conference he issued a call to action for industry leaders. The two organizations are also planning a two hour webcast, placement of articles in operator magazines, a presentation in WEF’s Safety and Occupational Health Committee’s (SoHC’s) half session at WEFTEC® – WEF’s 80th annual technical exhibition and conference - this October in San Diego, and working with WEF’s safety and occupational health committee on technical reference guidance materials.On Jan. 11, 2006, three workers at Bethune Point were removing a hurricane-damaged steel roof that covered two chemical storage tanks; one empty and the other containing 3,000 gallons of methanol. Two workers were up in a manlift basket using an acetylene torch to cut the roof into sections, when sparks from the torch ignited methanol vapors coming from the tank, leading to an explosion that killed two workers and critically injured a third. The CSB investigation began two days later.
The report is accessible online at the CSB’s Web site at