Truck explodes at Ventura County wastewater plant

November 20, 2014

fireA vacuum truck exploded at a Ventura County wastewater treatment plant early Tuesday morning, causing a mysterious chemical to shoot into the air sending 37 people to the hospital. [LA Times]

The explosion occurred around 3:45 a.m. while workers were removing 1,200 gallons of a chemical with the vacuum truck at a Santa Clara wastewater facility in Santa Paula. The blast caused an unknown chemical to crystallize and shoot at least 300 feet into the air.

Fire officials say the chemical is an organic peroxide, but it is unlike anything Ventura County firefighters have seen before.

“We don’t know what it is,” Fire Capt. Mike Lindberry said. “It’s bizarre.”

Following the explosion, authorities evacuated all businesses and agricultural ranches within a mile of the site. They also closed a school.

People began trickling into the hospital with complaints of burning eyes and difficulty breathing. The truck’s occupant, as well as three firefighters, were among those taken to the hospital.

Firefighters are working with the facility owner to determine the type of chemical that spilled. Hazmat crews are remaining at the site to monitor flare-ups.

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An accident at a wastewater treatment plant, it is surprising that we don’t have more of these issues with the caliber of people who work at these facilities. Is that idiot who intentionally dumped hazardous waste at the back of the City of SLOw’s corporation yard working at this site? What a bunch of idiots. Only the best and brightest idiots in waste water management.

Interesting…an organic peroxide could be one of many compounds that are considered oxidizers. They can be corrosive, toxic and explosive. I’m not sure why this type of material was being stored at a waste water facility. It doesn’t sound like it was stored properly (explosion proof).

I wonder if the fire department had that chemical identified in their Emergency Responce / Business Response Plan with the appropriate MSDS’s.

Glad no one was killed.

One other note….why was such a chemical being off loaded in the middle of the night? Kind of makes you wonder.

Such plants often are active round-the-clock — at least partially — so that may have been a routine time for what they were doing. Or not?

Generally speaking, people who deal professionally with industrial-duty hazardous materials are expected to know what they are dealing with, what all known potential dangers are and how to avoid them. The fact that no one there seems to know what they were dealing with sounds like an inexcusable failure on someone’s part. Possibilities include:

a. lack of qualified supervision (If the owner and driver didn’t have that level of competence, someone who was should have been present and in charge.)

b. someone substituted the wrong chemical for one that they expected to use (supplier?)

c. the vacuum truck had remnants of some other chemical in it that reacted violently with the chemical they were picking up (careless/lazy employee?)

I do know that waste water treatment plants deal with some nasty chemicals but they should know how to handle them and the Fire Dept. should have a hazmat specialist who is familiar with them as well. Something is not right with this scenario.