Vizag gas leak: High-power committee nails LG Polymers management for serious lapses

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The high-power committee, which submitted a 350-page report on Monday to Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy, nailed the LG Polymers for human negligence and security lapses that led to the gas leak killing 13 people and hundreds hospitalised.

The committee headed by Forest Department Special Secretary Neerab Kumar, which had looked into various aspects that led to the gas leak, found fault with the management of LG Polymers for lack of proper safety response preparedness at the plant.

The committee’s report stated that the styrene gas started auto polymerising due to exothermic reaction which had led to heating. As the temperature rose, styrene started vapourising. Following increase in pressure in the tank, the safety valves on the tank rooftop opened and started emitting vapour. Further, the committee found that the gas leak occurred as the plant’s cooling system failed.

Talking to mediapersons after submitting the report to Jagan Mohan Reddy, Neerab Kumar stated that LG Polymers had not complied with basic safety norms in the Styrene plant and that the staff had failed to bring the situation under control.

“Basic safety protocols were not followed, the response of the staff present at the factory to the gas leak was slow. The outdated design of the tank, absence of interlock system arrangement between the temperature monitoring and refrigeration systems is the root cause of the gas leak. A detailed investigation was conducted on why the design of the tank in which styrene monomer was stored had been changed,” Neerab Kumar pointed out.

Reading out from the report submitted to the CM, the Forest Department Special Secretary cited the lack of experience of LG Polymers India staff in monitoring and maintaining full tanks of styrene. “Our observations revealed that the management did not take proper care of the gas storage tank. There was a total breakdown on the part of the LG Polymers staff in handling the situation. There was insufficient knowledge of staff on styrene gas. There were poor safety protocols and poor safety management. The design of the styrene storage tanks was faulty, temperature monitoring and refrigeration systems had failed. There was no preparedness of the staff and officials to deal with the situation,” he pointed out.

The committee prepared the 350-page report after questioning LG Polymers employees, detailed discussions with gas leak victims and families, apart from representatives of political parties, social and civil activists. The panel had held discussions with technical experts regarding the possible causes of the leak. The panel probed the role of various officials of LG Polymers, design-related aspects of the tank and other possible chemical factors that may have led to the mishap.

The panel held several meetings with the officials of the National Green Tribunal, petrochemical experts besides others. The panel also sent a questionnaire to LG Polymers through the Factories Department, and other regulators. Special Chief Secretary R Karikal Valaven, Commissioner of Police RK Meena, Collector Vinay Chand and Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board Member-Secretary Vivek Yadav were the key members of the committee.

The gas leak occurred on May 7 in the early hours from the plant operated by L G Polymers at Venkatapuram village outside Visakhaptanam. Horrific scenes of people gasping for breath and falling like leaves in the street unfolded. More than 350 hospitalized, according to official figures, of these more than 50 were children, many of whom are minors. Some fell off their bikes, some morning walkers collapsed inhaling the toxic fumes, children and women were found unconscious on the pavements. The KGH hospital in Vizag had to grapple with a swarm of patients cramming hospital emergency rooms with more than two gas victims being treated in one bed. There were children everywhere, often two to three to a bed. Some were brothers and sisters.

Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, who had set up a high-level committee to probe the incident, announced Rs 1 crore compensation to the kin of the deceased. On June 1, the NGT had ordered the South Korean company to deposit Rs 50 crore. The Supreme Court had put on hold, for 10 days, the disbursal of Rs 50 crore compensation by LG Polymers for the Vizag gas leak incident, as directed by the National Green Tribunal.

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