Leak at Metropolis Honeywell plant sparks investigation

Leak at Metropolis Honeywell plant sparks investigation

METROPOLIS, IL (KFVS) - A leak Sunday night at the Honeywell plant in Metropolis is currently under investigation, according to Peter Dalpe who works with the company.

Dalpe says the leak, which happened around 7:30 p.m., was due to an equipment failure in the main production building.

There were no injuries reported and there is no indication that any UF6 material left the site, according to Dalpe. UF6, used in the uranium enrichment process, is highly corrosive and reactive and can cause severe burns and serious radiation exposure upon contact with skin.

An investigation into the incident is ongoing and officials are trying to find out how much, if any, material was released. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been notified, Dalpe says. The United Steelworkers union called for an investigation

The leak was contained, according to Dalpe, thanks to the plant's trained emergency teams who activated procedures and equipment. The union claims the suspected gas leaving the building for at least six minutes before water mitigation towers were activated.

The union claims Honeywell locked out 150 USW Local 7-669 members on Aug. 2 and replaced them with temporary workers who lack the experience in dealing with hazardous substances.

Honeywell responded with the following statement:

"It is disappointing that the union is spreading misleading information about Sunday's incident and the site's appropriate and effective emergency response.

The incident was the result of an equipment failure. The plant's emergency personnel, procedures and safety systems worked as designed to ensure the safety of plant personnel and the surrounding community. The company has spent more than $177 million in improvements at the plant over the last 10 years, including more than $50 million in safety projects.

There is no evidence or indication that any material left the site. Had any UF6 or HF approached the facility's perimeter, our sensors would have been triggered and we would have evacuated the area. The cause of the mist in the air that could be seen during the incident was spray from the water mitigation system at the plant, which was employed and worked properly to help contain the release inside the production building. The site has sensors deployed throughout the plant and along its perimeter to detect any material release. The only sensors that detected any material were located inside the production building.

There is also no evidence that the equipment failure was the result of improper or faulty installation. These types of projects are completed by highly-trained and qualified external contractors. This type of work has never been completed by the union workforce, which does not have workers trained to handle this type of work.

We are continuing our investigation into the incident and continue to provide all information to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which has dispatched an inspector to the plant. At all times, the plant has made the proper notifications to local emergency responders and the NRC."

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