Катастрофы в США

Техногенные пожары, утечки вредных веществ, столкновения танкеров, крушения поездов и мостов, взрывы заводов, нефтяных платформ и трубопроводов... В США никогда не знаешь, откуда свалится кирпич: в глобальном муравейнике потребления это естественная плата за бесшабашный прогресс и безудержную жадность.

В противовес природным катаклизмам, «техногенными» называют катастрофы, ставшие следствием человеческой небрежности, ошибки или злого умысла. И в этом списке США впереди планеты всей. Не то чтобы руки американцев как-то криво приделаны, просто здешняя экономика, словно ненасытное гигантское чудовище, потребляет больше, нежели может переварить. Таким образом, возникает естественный опережающий износ инфраструктуры и основных фондов, что влечет за собой увеличение числа рукотворных бедствий.

Самый яркий тому пример – крушение нефтяной платформы Deepwater Horizon ВР в апреле 2010 года недалеко от южного побережья США. Это была самая крупная авария за всю историю добычи «черного золота». При взрыве погибли 11 нефтяников, произошла утечка 940 млн. литров нефти, общая стоимость катастрофы оценивается в 63 млрд. долларов, а существование 400 различных видов животных и по сей день остается под угрозой. Высказываются даже опасения, что в результате катастрофы изменил направление Гольфстрим и произошли необратимые изменения мирового климата.

[learn_more caption="О чем идет речь - крушение нефтяной платформы Deepwater Horizon (на англ.)"]

BP has been blocked from seeking new contracts with the US government because of the oil company's "lack of business integrity" during the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, the Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday.

The temporary order bans BP from competing for new oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico – such as the auction of 20m acres taking place on Wednesday – or from bidding on new contracts to supply the Pentagon or other government agencies with fuel.

While the ban does not affect existing business, it raises wider questions about the company's future in a crucial market.

The type of suspension imposed by the EPA typically does not last more than 18 months. But an official said that in this case the ban could be extended because of the ongoing legal proceedings. That could mean BP, the largest oil producer in the Gulf of Mexico, would remain under an extended moratorium until all criminal charges and law suits are resolved.

BP was clearly taken by surprise and struggled to explain the impact on its business. Its shares fell nearly 2% in London as investors reacted with dismay to the news which puts a major dent in the company's already battered reputation.

The finance director of the London-based oil group warned investors at a recent presentation that any outright ban could "affect BP's investment thesis in the US".

The order was handed down just two weeks after BP agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter and other charges arising from the April 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, as well as pay a record $4.5bn in fines.

The oil company, in announcing its plea deal with the Justice Department earlier this month, had specifically said it did not expect to be barred from future business dealings. "Under US law, companies convicted of certain criminal acts can be debarred from contracting with the federal government," the company said in its statement at the time. "BP has not been advised of the intention of any federal agency to suspend or debar the company in connection with this plea agreement."

The EPA said the suspension was based on BP's conduct at the time of the blow-out as well as the 87 days it took to contain the well. Some 4.9m barrels of crude gushed into the Gulf of Mexico before it was finally capped.

"EPA is taking this action due to BP's lack of business integrity as demonstrated by the company's conduct with regard to the Deepwater Horizon blowout, explosion, oil spill, and response, as reflected by the filing of a criminal information," the announcement said.

The announcement went on to describe the oil spill as the "largest environmental disaster in US history".

It said BP would remain under suspension, and barred from new federal government contracts and transactions, until the company can demonstrate that it meets federal business standards.

"Federal executive branch agencies take these actions to ensure the integrity of federal programmes by conducting business only with responsible individuals or companies. Suspensions are a standard practice when a responsibility question is raised by action in a criminal case," the EPA announcement said.

The agency gave no further details about the duration of the suspension, and the potential costs to BP were not immediately clear.

In its response, BP said the ban would not affect existing business. "The temporary suspension does not affect any existing contracts the company has with the US government, including those related to current and ongoing drilling and production operations in the Gulf of Mexico," BP said.

The company said it was working with EPA and the US Justice Department to lift the suspension. "The EPA has informed BP that it is preparing a proposed administrative agreement that, if agreed upon, would effectively resolve and lift this temporary suspension. The EPA notified BP that such a draft agreement would be available soon," the statement said.

The press release also noted that BP had been granted more than 50 new leases in the Gulf of Mexico since the oil disaster.

Peter Hutton, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, said the EPA action had "real significance", especially as it came days after Lamar McKay, the head of BP in America, was promoted to head of global exploration and production.

"The critical question is whether this is a shot across BP's bows to get a settlement, or a more sustained stance, in which case the importance of the context is underlined by comments from BP's chief financial officer, Brian Gilvary, in a recent conference call that such actions could 'affect BP's investment thesis in US'."

But Joe Lampel, professor of strategy at the Cass Business School in London, said while the ban was a blow to BP the damage should be relatively limited.

"This suspension should be seen as an additional penalty rather than a pressure tactic that the US government often uses when it wants to force firms to concede liability. We do not know how long the ban will last, but I suspect that it will be lifted after a sufficient grace period has passed."

In its attempt to consign Deepwater to the past, BP has agreed to pay $7.8bn to settle private claims stemming from the spill, and with the plea deal reached earlier this month, had hoped to limit its criminal liability. It is still on the hook for up to $21bn for environmental damage to the Gulf. Wednesday's move by the EPA presents an additional complication.

Meanwhile, two BP rig supervisors appeared in a New Orleans court on Wednesday to be formally charged with manslaughter in the deaths of 11 workers aboard the rig. The supervisors, Donald Vidrine and Robert Kaluza, are accused of ignoring abnormal pressure readings seen as a red flag of a well blow-out.

Kaluza told reporters just before his hearing that he was innocent of the charges. "I think about the tragedy of the Deepwater Horizon every day. But I did not cause the tragedy," he told reporters at the court. "I am innocent and I put my trust, reputation and future in the hands of the judge and jury."

A former BP executive David Rainey was charged separately for allegedly lying to Congress about the amount of oil that was gushing from the well. All three men were expected to plead not guilty.

The EPA action was positively received by a number of key players, including former senator Bob Graham, who had chaired the White House oil spill commission. "I can't put a dollar figure on what that would mean but I would assume that access to one of the larger reserves of petroleum in the world – which the Gulf of Mexico is – would have some economic consequences. And the longer the prohibition, the greater the consequences," Graham told the Guardian.

He went on to praise the Obama administration for holding the oil company to account.

"I think sending a very strong signal that the federal government is going to be a much better steward of public property and that those who are permitted to explore and then potentially exploit those public properties are going to have to conduct themselves by world-class standards," Graham said.

Campaign groups also applauded the move by the EPA. But the Oceana conservation group said the tough line from the Obama administration was undercut by its decision to go ahead with new lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday.

"We are pleased that BP is being penalised for the irresponsible actions," said Matt Dundas, the campaign director. But he went on: "Overall, President Obama is missing the lesson of the Deepwater Horizon disaster which is that offshore drilling is inherently dirty and dangerous and needs to be phased out."



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Конечно, последнее утверждение можно было бы списать на «теорию заговоров», но факт остается фактом: нефтяные разливы – ужаснейшая мина замедленного действия! Побережье Аляски, например, до сих пор не восстановилось после катастрофы 1989 года. Тогда американский супертанкер Exxon-Valdez напоролся на риф, в результате чего 50 млн. литров нефти «разбавили» 11 тысяч миль океана, уничтожив тем самым 250 тысяч птиц и млекопитающих. Как показали исследования, пляжи Аляски и сейчас еще «кровоточат» нефтью…

[learn_more caption="О чем идет речь - супертанкер Exxon-Valdez напоролся на риф (на англ.)"]

Federal scientists say the Gulf of Mexico oil leak is much bigger than initially estimated, eclipsing Alaska's Exxon Valdez disaster as the largest oil spill in U.S. waters.

But in Alaska, plenty of oil spill watchdogs remain skeptical that Exxon Mobil Corp.'s tanker spill in Prince William Sound in 1989 was limited to 11 million gallons.

Judging by the amount of oil that landed on 1,300 miles of Alaska coastline, "there's no reason to believe 11 million gallons," said Walt Parker, who headed the Alaska Oil Spill Commission created in the Exxon Valdez aftermath.

At one time, state lawyers pushed to verify the size of the spill, which killed thousands of birds and otters, hundreds of seals and eagles and damaged the livelihoods of many fishermen. But the state's interest in the matter ended after it settled its pollution case against the oil company in 1991.

Riki Ott, a Cordova activist, writer and fisherman, says a better estimate of the Exxon oil spill is 30 million gallons. She cites calculations made in 1991 by a marine surveyor the state hired to investigate the spill's size.

But 11 million gallons has become the official number. The Coast Guard accepted it. The number has been used in media accounts and scientific journals for the past 21 years. Lawyers for oil-spill class-action plaintiffs didn't challenge it, saying it was immaterial to their case.

If the Exxon Valdez instead spilled 30 million gallons, it may still top the Gulf leak.

Federal scientists' calculations on May 27 put the volume of the Gulf oil leak between 500,000 gallons and 1 million gallons per day, much larger than the ballpark estimate BP and the Coast Guard had provided in previous weeks. Unless the well can be sealed off, officials expect it to continue leaking until August. That's when BP is expected to finish drilling a relief well capable of stopping the flow.

"Practically every aspect of responding to an oil spill is contingent on knowing the scope of the problem they are dealing with," said Jeff Short, a former federal scientist who studied the aftermath of the Exxon spill. He now works for the environmental group Oceana.

Knowing the flow rate is important for environmental, legal and financial reasons, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration administrator Jane Lubchenco said last week.

The Gulf gusher has leaked between 23 million to more than 46 million gallons of oil, according to federal estimates.


The size of the Exxon spill came from Exxon and its contractors. It never received a complete investigation from state or federal regulators.

Many records from the state's case against Exxon are now housed in a special archive, on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus, devoted to the oil spill.

The records from the case show that just weeks before the 1991 settlement, the state-hired investigator, Texas marine surveyor Jim Murchison, told the Alaska Department of Law that the 11 million gallon estimate provided by an Exxon contractor company called Caleb Brett had "serious deficiencies."

Caleb Brett used some simple math: it subtracted the volume of oil removed from the damaged Exxon Valdez from the nearly 54 million gallons of oil the tanker was carrying before grounding on Bligh Reef.

But Murchison was certain that the Exxon Valdez's damaged oil tanks were holding seawater, not just crude oil, and wanted the state to get records that would prove him right or wrong. The tanks on the ship had "large holes" in them, and seawater would have forced its way into them when the oil gushed out, he wrote in a memo to a state attorney in September 1991.

Murchison wasn't the first to question the spill size, according to press accounts at the time. Salvage boat captain Nikki Hennessy, who responded to the spill, publicly disputed the 11 million figure in 1989, based on his observations at the scene and his belief that seawater had filled the tanks. Hennessy believed Exxon pumped large amounts of seawater into three tankers that came to remove oil from the disabled ship, and the company counted the seawater as oil.

Murchison calculated the size of the Exxon spill at 25 million gallons, at minimum.

"In time, all of the oil cargo in the damaged tanks would have spilled into the sea, the oil cargo in the forward tanks would have gone rather quickly. This loss would have been caused and accelerated by the pumping action due to the up to 20 feet, or more, of diurnal tide action, the reported 15 foot seas and the rolling of the vessel due to the tides and 'Ground effect' causing the vessel to slowly roll and list or heel between two and five degrees," he wrote.

He continued, "In addition errors were noted in the calculations of the oil on board the (tanker) on March 25, 1989. Most of the water cuts or soundings are questioned because of the large holes in the vessel, apparently the method used to differentiate between oil and water was providing inaccurate results which resulted in grossly underestimating the water and overestimating the oil."

"If there is any way possible we need the actual shore tank figures, for actual oil received ashore," Murchison wrote to a state attorney.

"Just between you and me it looks like a giant conspiracy to understate the amount lost to the sea and overstate the amount recovered from the vessel," he wrote in a memo to the attorney.

The civil case was settled on Oct. 9, 1991 and the state dropped the investigation.

State officials later said they were more concerned about how much oil landed on the beaches. Also, using the amount of barrels spilled to calculate a fine would have resulted in a lower payment than what the state received through the settlement, they said.

Exxon officials in recent years have ridiculed the theory that seawater was counted as oil when the oil was pumped off.

"What's in it for us to distort a figure like that?" an Exxon spokesman told the Daily News in 2004.

Exxon spokesman Alan Jeffers recently said the company doesn't have any better numbers to offer for the spill now than it did 21 years ago.


The debate over the size of the Gulf of Mexico spill mushroomed in recent weeks.

University professors and other researchers did their own math, came up with much bigger numbers and aired their findings in the national media.

After the complaints, the Coast Guard commander in charge of the spill response assigned federal scientists to study the matter. Shortly after that, they published the estimate that the well was spilling 500,000 to 1 million gallons a day.

Findlay Abbott is an Exxon Valdez class-action plaintiff who has tried unsuccessfully for years to get the 11 million gallon figure reconsidered for that case. He said recently he understands the difficulty of calculating the size of the Gulf leak, thousands of feet under water. But he remains outraged that government officials never verified the size of the Exxon spill, which he believes could be easily determined using the records that Murchison had requested.

"The evidence is overwhelming but people don't care. I just had a weird feeling that no one wants to know," Abbott said.

Abbott is still typing up legal filings. Though his previous motions in the class-action case have failed, he filed one just a few weeks ago, in which he claimed the plaintiff attorneys had opposed his efforts to "bring truth to the record and show the full reprehensibility of Exxon's behavior."



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Есть в США и своя «Фукусима», и свой «город-призрак».

Главная авария американской ядерной энергетики произошла 28 марта 1979 года на АЭС в Пенсильвании. Тогда правительственные эксперты пришли к выводу, что количество радиации, выброшенной в атмосферу, не повлияет на здоровье местных жителей. Увы, через какое-то время  количество новорожденных с отклонениями превысило 50%, а более 2400 взрослых, страдающих от различных заболеваний, были вынуждены искать правды в суде.

[learn_more caption="О чем идет речь - Главная авария американской ядерной энергетики (на англ.)"]

The Three Mile Island Unit 2 (TMI-2) reactor, near Middletown, Pa., partially melted down on March 28, 1979. This was the most serious accident in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant operating history, although its small radioactive releases had no detectable health effects on plant workers or the public. Its aftermath brought about sweeping changes involving emergency response planning, reactor operator training, human factors engineering, radiation protection, and many other areas of nuclear power plant operations. It also caused the NRC to tighten and heighten its regulatory oversight. All of these changes significantly enhanced U.S. reactor safety.

A combination of equipment malfunctions, design-related problems and worker errors led to TMI-2's partial meltdown and very small off-site releases of radioactivity.

The accident began about 4 a.m. on Wednesday, March 28, 1979, when the plant experienced a failure in the secondary, non-nuclear section of the plant (one of two reactors on the site). Either a mechanical or electrical failure prevented the main feedwater pumps from sending water to the steam generators that remove heat from the reactor core. This caused the plant's turbine-generator and then the reactor itself to automatically shut down. Immediately, the pressure in the primary system (the nuclear portion of the plant) began to increase. In order to control that pressure, the pilot-operated relief valve (a valve located at the top of the pressurizer) opened. The valve should have closed when the pressure fell to proper levels, but it became stuck open. Instruments in the control room, however, indicated to the plant staff that the valve was closed. As a result, the plant staff was unaware that cooling water was pouring out of the stuck-open valve.

As coolant flowed from the primary system through the valve, other instruments available to reactor operators provided inadequate information. There was no instrument that showed how much water covered the core. As a result, plant staff assumed that as long as the pressurizer water level was high, the core was properly covered with water. As alarms rang and warning lights flashed, the operators did not realize that the plant was experiencing a loss-of-coolant accident. They took a series of actions that made conditions worse. The water escaping through the stuck valve reduced primary system pressure so much that the reactor coolant pumps had to be turned off to prevent dangerous vibrations. To prevent the pressurizer from filling up completely, the staff reduced how much emergency cooling water was being pumped in to the primary system. These actions starved the reactor core of coolant, causing it to overheat.

Without the proper water flow, the nuclear fuel overheated to the point at which the zirconium cladding (the long metal tubes that hold the nuclear fuel pellets) ruptured and the fuel pellets began to melt. It was later found that about half of the core melted during the early stages of the accident. Although TMI-2 suffered a severe core meltdown, the most dangerous kind of nuclear power accident, consequences outside the plant were minimal. Unlike the Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents, TMI-2's containment building remained intact and held almost all of the accident's radioactive material.

Federal and state authorities were initially concerned about the small releases of radioactive gases that were measured off-site by the late morning of March 28 and even more concerned about the potential threat that the reactor posed to the surrounding population. They did not know that the core had melted, but they immediately took steps to try to gain control of the reactor and ensure adequate cooling to the core. The NRC's regional office in King of Prussia, Pa., was notified at 7:45 a.m. on March 28. By 8 a.m., NRC Headquarters in Washington, D.C., was alerted and the NRC Operations Center in Bethesda, Md., was activated. The regional office promptly dispatched the first team of inspectors to the site and other agencies, such as the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, also mobilized their response teams. Helicopters hired by TMI's owner, General Public Utilities Nuclear, and the Department of Energy were sampling radioactivity in the atmosphere above the plant by midday. A team from the Brookhaven National Laboratory was also sent to assist in radiation monitoring. At 9:15 a.m., the White House was notified and at 11 a.m., all non-essential personnel were ordered off the plant's premises.

By the evening of March 28, the core appeared to be adequately cooled and the reactor appeared to be stable. But new concerns arose by the morning of Friday, March 30. A significant release of radiation from the plant's auxiliary building, performed to relieve pressure on the primary system and avoid curtailing the flow of coolant to the core, caused a great deal of confusion and consternation. In an atmosphere of growing uncertainty about the condition of the plant, the governor of Pennsylvania, Richard L. Thornburgh, consulted with the NRC about evacuating the population near the plant. Eventually, he and NRC Chairman Joseph Hendrie agreed that it would be prudent for those members of society most vulnerable to radiation to evacuate the area. Thornburgh announced that he was advising pregnant women and pre-school-age children within a five-mile radius of the plant to leave the area.

Within a short time, chemical reactions in the melting fuel created a large hydrogen bubble in the dome of the pressure vessel, the container that holds the reactor core. NRC officials worried the hydrogen bubble might burn or even explode and rupture the pressure vessel. In that event, the core would fall into the containment building and perhaps cause a breach of containment. The hydrogen bubble was a source of intense scrutiny and great anxiety, both among government authorities and the population, throughout the day on Saturday, March 31. The crisis ended when experts determined on Sunday, April 1, that the bubble could not burn or explode because of the absence of oxygen in the pressure vessel. Further, by that time, the utility had succeeded in greatly reducing the size of the bubble.

The NRC conducted detailed studies of the accident's radiological consequences, as did the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (now Health and Human Services), the Department of Energy, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Several independent groups also conducted studies. The approximately 2 million people around TMI-2 during the accident are estimated to have received an average radiation dose of only about 1 millirem above the usual background dose. To put this into context, exposure from a chest X-ray is about 6 millirem and the area's natural radioactive background dose is about 100-125 millirem per year for the area. The accident's maximum dose to a person at the site boundary would have been less than 100 millirem above background.

In the months following the accident, although questions were raised about possible adverse effects from radiation on human, animal, and plant life in the TMI area, none could be directly correlated to the accident. Thousands of environmental samples of air, water, milk, vegetation, soil, and foodstuffs were collected by various government agencies monitoring the area. Very low levels of radionuclides could be attributed to releases from the accident. However, comprehensive investigations and assessments by several well respected organizations, such as Columbia University and the University of Pittsburgh, have concluded that in spite of serious damage to the reactor, the actual release had negligible effects on the physical health of individuals or the environment.

A combination of personnel error, design deficiencies, and component failures caused the Three Mile Island accident, which permanently changed both the nuclear industry and the NRC. Public fear and distrust increased, NRC's regulations and oversight became broader and more robust, and management of the plants was scrutinized more carefully. Careful analysis of the accident's events identified problems and led to permanent and sweeping changes in how NRC regulates its licensees – which, in turn, has reduced the risk to public health and safety.

Here are some of the major changes that have occurred since the accident:

Upgrading and strengthening of plant design and equipment requirements. This includes fire protection, piping systems, auxiliary feedwater systems, containment building isolation, reliability of individual components (pressure relief valves and electrical circuit breakers), and the ability of plants to shut down automatically;
Identifying the critical role of human performance in plant safety led to revamping operator training and staffing requirements, followed by improved instrumentation and controls for operating the plant, and establishment of fitness-for-duty programs for plant workers to guard against alcohol or drug abuse;
Enhancing emergency preparedness, including requirements for plants to immediately notify NRC of significant events and an NRC Operations Center staffed 24 hours a day. Drills and response plans are now tested by licensees several times a year, and state and local agencies participate in drills with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and NRC;
Integrating NRC observations, findings, and conclusions about licensee performance and management effectiveness into a periodic, public report;
Having senior NRC managers regularly analyze plant performance for those plants needing significant additional regulatory attention;
Expanding NRC's resident inspector program – first authorized in 1977 – to have at least two inspectors live nearby and work exclusively at each plant in the U.S. to provide daily surveillance of licensee adherence to NRC regulations;
Expanding performance-oriented as well as safety-oriented inspections, and the use of risk assessment to identify vulnerabilities of any plant to severe accidents;
Strengthening and reorganizing enforcement staff in a separate office within the NRC;
Establishing the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, the industry's own "policing" group, and formation of what is now the Nuclear Energy Institute to provide a unified industry approach to generic nuclear regulatory issues, and interaction with NRC and other government agencies;
Installing additional equipment by licensees to mitigate accident conditions, and monitor radiation levels and plant status;
Enacting programs by licensees for early identification of important safety-related problems, and for collecting and assessing relevant data so operating experience can be shared and quickly acted upon; and
Expanding NRC's international activities to share enhanced knowledge of nuclear safety with other countries in a number of important technical areas.

Today, the TMI-2 reactor is permanently shut down and all its fuel had been removed. The reactor coolant system is fully drained and the radioactive water decontaminated and evaporated. The accident's radioactive waste was shipped off-site to an appropriate disposal area, and the reactor fuel and core debris was shipped to the Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory. In 2001, FirstEnergy acquired TMI-2 from GPU. FirstEnergy has contracted the monitoring of TMI-2 to Exelon, the current owner and operator of TMI-1. The companies plan to keep the TMI-2 facility in long-term, monitored storage until the operating license for the TMI-1 plant expires, at which time both plants will be decommissioned.

Below is a chronology of highlights of the TMI?2 cleanup from 1980 through 1993.
Date Event

July 1980 Approximately 43,000 curies of krypton were vented from the reactor building.

July 1980 The first manned entry into the reactor building took place.

Nov. 1980 An Advisory Panel for the Decontamination of TMI-2, composed of citizens, scientists, and State and local officials, held its first meeting in Harrisburg, PA.

July 1984 The reactor vessel head (top) was removed.

Oct. 1985 Fuel removal began.

July 1986 The off-site shipment of reactor core debris began.

Aug. 1988 GPU submitted a request for a proposal to amend the TMI-2 license to a "possession-only" license and to allow the facility to enter long-term monitoring storage.

Jan. 1990 Fuel removal was completed.

July 1990 GPU submitted its funding plan for placing $229 million in escrow for radiological decommissioning of the plant.

Jan. 1991 The evaporation of accident-generated water began.

April 1991 NRC published a notice of opportunity for a hearing on GPU's request for a license amendment.

Feb. 1992 NRC issued a safety evaluation report and granted the license amendment.

Aug. 1993 The processing of accident-generated water was completed involving 2.23 million gallons.

Sept. 1993 NRC issued a possession-only license.

Sept. 1993 The Advisory Panel for Decontamination of TMI-2 held its last meeting.

Dec. 1993 Monitored storage began.

Further information on the TMI-2 accident can be obtained from sources listed below. The NUREG documents, many of which are on microfiche, can be ordered for a fee from the NRC's Public Document Room at 301-415-4737 or 1-800-397-4209; e-mail pdr@nrc.gov. The PDR is located at 11555 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Md.; however the mailing address is: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Public Document Room, Washington, D.C. 20555. A glossary is also provided below.

Additional Sources for Information on Three Mile Island

NRC Annual Report - 1979, NUREG-0690
"Population Dose and Health Impact of the Accident at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Station," NUREG-0558
"Environmental Assessment of Radiological Effluents from Data Gathering and Maintenance Operation on Three Mile Island Unit 2," NUREG-0681
"Report of The President's Commission on The Accident at Three Mile Island," October, 1979
"Investigation into the March 28, 1979 Three Mile Island Accident by the Office of Inspection and Enforcement," NUREG-0600
"Three Mile Island; A Report to the Commissioners and to the Public," by Mitchell Rogovin and George T. Frampton, NUREG/CR-1250, Vols. I-II, 1980
"Lessons learned From the Three Mile Island - Unit 2 Advisory Panel," NUREG/CR-6252
"The Status of Recommendations of the President's Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island," (A ten-year review), NUREG-1355
"NRC Views and Analysis of the Recommendations of the President's Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island," NUREG-0632
"Environmental Impact Statement related to decontamination and disposal of radioactive wastes resulting from March 28, 1979 accident Three Mile
Island Nuclear Station, Unit 2," NUREG-0683
"Answers to Questions About Updated Estimates of Occupational Radiation Doses at Three Mile Island, Unit 2," NUREG-1060
"Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Cleanup Activities at Three Mile Island, Unit 2," NUREG-0732
"Status of Safety Issues at Licensed Power Plants" (TMI Action Plan Reqmts.), NUREG-1435
Walker, J. Samuel, Three Mile Island: A Nuclear Crisis in Historical Perspective, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.



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«Город-призрак» Пичер некогда был шахтерский столицей штата Оклахома. Сейчас его называют самым токсичным местом США – в 1967 году добыча свинца и цинка прекратилась, но власти скрыли от жителей масштабы загрязнений. Лишь через много лет, когда заболеваемость раком превысила мыслимые рамки а три четверти школьников страдали скудоумием, власти забили тревогу. Пичер с его тысячами заброшенных шахт и сотнями миллионов тонн отходов был объявлен непригодным для жизни. Оставшихся людей переселили, и 1 сентября 2009 года этот город официально прекратил свое существование.

[learn_more caption="О чем идет речь - Город-призрак Пичер некогда был шахтерский столицей (на англ.)"]

Mayor Bill Blunk sees no reason for sugar-coating his opinion when asked to describe this town.

“It’s dead,” he said. “Wasted land.”

Almost anywhere else on the map, such bluntness could cost a politician re-election. But not here. Mr. Blunk has the near-unanimous support of the population, 140 people or so, who are perhaps singular among residents of municipalities in that they all want out of theirs.

“I’d be happy to go as anyone,” said Randall Barr, a retired sand company worker. “You can’t do anything with this land. What good is it?”

For most of the early part of the 20th century, this little city in the southeast corner of Kansas had the feel of a rollicking boom town, its prosperity coming from land rich in lead, zinc and iron ore. Part of a vast mining district where Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma meet, Treece and its twin city across the Oklahoma state line, Picher, became the unofficial capitals of a zone that in its heyday produced more than $20 billion worth of ore — much of it used for weaponry to fight World Wars I and II.

But when the last of the mines closed in the 1970s, Treece was left sitting in a toxic waste dump of lead-tinged dust, contaminated soil and sinkholes. On a hot summer day, children can be seen riding their bikes around enormous mounds of chat — pulverized rock laced with lead and iron. It is the waste product left over from mining that is the cause of so many problems here. Uncontrolled, it blows in the wind.

Treece and Picher — which is the much larger of the two towns, once home to 20,000 people and separated from Treece by only a gravel road, the state line — became part of adjacent Superfund sites that the Environmental Protection Agency has been trying to clean since the 1980s.

In Picher, the remediation of the land has proved daunting. In a move without many precedents, the federal government decided to buy out and relocate nearly the entire population, which had dwindled to 1,800 by 2000, leaving a dusty ghost town where the social and economic hub of the area used to be.

But the buyouts stopped at the Oklahoma line. Treece remains similarly contaminated, but now even more isolated. Officials in Kansas have been practically begging the federal government to move Treece’s impoverished people, mostly the children and grandchildren of old miners, but to no avail.

“You can turn and see one block away is Oklahoma, unsafe,” said Pam Pruitt, the city clerk. “They got bought out, and we didn’t? It’s incredibly unfair. The people here, if they wanted to leave, they can’t. They can’t sell their property. They can’t get bank loans to fix them up. They’re just stuck.”

The E.P.A. does not see it that way. The agency favors rehabilitation of the tainted soil in Treece, which mainly entails cleansing the top layer of sediment.

Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas and a staunch advocate of the buyouts, said he likened the strategy to “throwing a fancy rug over a hole in the floor.” He believes that it would be more efficient to simply move the people, which would cost an estimated $3.5 million.

Nonetheless, the agency says that it can accomplish the soil cleansing in 10 years and that Treece residents are safe in the meantime. In Picher, however, government scientists found that extensive waste deposits could not be remediated for several decades, and that residents would be at risk during the cleanup, hence the need for government-assisted relocation.

“They are two independent sites from the way we look at it,” said Mathy Stanislaus, the assistant administrator for solid waste at the E.P.A.

Mr. Stanislaus said that in Picher, the residential areas were interspersed with mining waste sites, but that in Treece, the residential areas were away from pollutants. Still, he said, the agency is “taking a hard look” at the residents’ concerns and will continue to evaluate their situation.

Such explanations do nothing to ease the worry of the people in Treece. In addition to living in fear of lead and other poisons, they lost their stores, gas stations, some public services, jobs and their social outlet with the demise of Picher.

That town ceased to be an official entity on Sept. 1. Only a few die-hard residents remain, unconvinced of the health risks or unhappy with their buyout offers.

They live in a gothic landscape of varying degrees of disrepair. A few residents walked away from well-kept properties just last week, while most others took buyouts years ago, leaving dozens of houses to collapse upon themselves. Stray dogs wander. Faded signs announce places that are no longer: the Picher Mining Museum, the Church of the Nazarene, a 24-hour truck stop.

“I had a perfectly good house,” said Vickey Phillips, who moved out of Picher four years ago. “But they said it was full of lead.”

The psychological impact of Picher’s move on Treece has been overwhelming.

“They are in essence one town,” said Senator Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, who grew up north of Treece and is pushing for the buyouts. “Yes, there’s a state line that divides them, but that’s a man-made distinction. It is very much one town.”

About 100 miles northeast of Tulsa, Treece is entirely residential, with the only public building being its two-room clapboard City Hall. Most of the population, which has a poverty level more than twice the national average, is feeling increasingly depressed about the isolation and a sense of creeping abandonment.

“There’s nothing here but a City Hall, honestly,” said Regina Palmer, 24.

A 1993 study found that 34 percent of the children tested in Picher had blood lead levels exceeding the point at which there is a risk of brain or nervous system damage. Government efforts to do something to clean the chat piles began in earnest then. But similar studies have never been done in Treece.

Only now is the E.P.A. testing the air quality and lead levels in residents’ blood. Agency officials arrived in town last week.

“It’s about 10 years too late,” Mayor Blunk said.

Glenda Powell is among those hoping for a buyout. “My father was one of the last miners,” she said. “He died of cancer, and so did my mom — bad lungs. This has always been home, and I don’t know where we’d go, just a place where we can breathe.”



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Ежегодно США сотрясают десятки взрывов на производстве. Информационные сообщения о них напоминают военные сводки.

17 апреля 2013 в Техасе взорвался завод удобрений West Fertilizer Co. Погибли 70 человек, двести оказались в больницах, порядка 150 строений были разрушены. Следователи подтвердили, что причиной взрыва стало возгорание аммиачной селитры.

[learn_more caption="О чем идет речь - в Техасе взорвался завод удобрений West Fertilizer Co (на англ.)"]

As details emerge about the Texas fertilizer plant that was the site of Wednesday’s fatal explosion and fire, a few tidbits can be gleaned from a 2007 lawsuit that the plant’s owners filed against agribusiness giant Monsanto Co.

The suit, filed as a potential class action in U.S. District Court for the western district of Texas, claimed that Monsanto had artificially inflated prices for its herbicide Roundup through anti-competitive actions. The suit did not relate to storing fertilizer, believed to be at the root of Wednesday’s blast.

The suit was filed by Texas Grain Storage Inc. The company now calls itself West Fertilizer Co.

In the suit, the company said that it was started in 1957 as a grain-storage business by the Plasek family in the town of West, Texas. It later built a small fertilizer-blend plant and started selling fertilizer to area farmers.

Zak Covar, executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, told a news conference Wednesday that the fertilizer storage and blending facility had been there since 1962.

In 1970 it started selling other agricultural products, including some from Monsanto, and by 1997 it had struck a deal with Monsanto to directly purchase Roundup each year.

A court filing in 2008 indicated that Texas Grain Storage recently had been sold. Emil Plasek is listed as a former owner.
Texas Grain Storage said it monitored the Roundup, stored in a stainless steel tank, through a telephone connected to the tank, the company said.

Many documents in the case are sealed, and the public documents don’t reveal the names of the plant’s then-current owners. Texas corporation records list the president of the company as Donald R. Adair, and show a business operating as Adair Grain Inc. at the same address.

Texas Grain Storage was represented by roughly 30 lawyers at 12 firms, according to court records. One lawyer who represented Texas Grain said the suit stalled in 2010 after a magistrate judge denied a request to certify the case as a class action. The lawyer said Texas Grain appealed the ruling, and that a district judge has yet to rule on the appeal. The last public filing in the case was in 2010.

Monsanto responded to Texas Grain’s complaint by saying the company didn’t have standing to bring the case and was barred by the statute of limitations. Thursday, a Monsanto spokesman said, “The long dormant lawsuit filed by Texas Grain had nothing to do with fertilizer or the operation of the West, Texas plant.”



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По данным Reuters, завод не раз обворовывали люди, желающие использовать безводный аммиак для подпольного производства сильнейшего психостимулятора – метамфетамина. Несмотря на это, завод не имел современной охранной системы.

[learn_more caption="О чем идет речь - По данным Reuters, завод не раз обворовывали люди (на англ.)"]

The Texas fertilizer plant that exploded two weeks ago, killing 14 people and injuring about 200, was a repeat target of theft by intruders who tampered with tanks and caused the release of toxic chemicals, police records reviewed by Reuters show.

Police responded to at least 11 reports of burglaries and five separate ammonia leaks at West Fertilizer Co over the past 12 years, according to 911 dispatch logs and criminal offense reports Reuters obtained from the McLennan County Sheriff's office in Waco, Texas through an Open Records Request.

Some of the leaks, including one reported in October 2012, were linked to theft or interference with tank valves.

According to one 2002 crime report, a plant manager told police that intruders were stealing four to five gallons of anhydrous ammonia every three days. The liquid gas can be used to cook methamphetamine, the addictive and illicit stimulant.

In rural areas across the United States, the thriving meth trade has turned storage facilities like West Fertilizer Co and even unattended tanks in farm fields into frequent targets of theft, according to several government and fertilizer industry reports issued over the past 13 years.

The cause of the April 17 blast at the plant in the town of West is still being probed, and investigators have offered no evidence that security breaches contributed to the deadly incident. There also is no indication that the explosion had anything to do with the theft of materials for drug making. Anhydrous ammonia has been ruled out as a cause because the four storage tanks remained intact after the blast, said Rachel Moreno, a spokeswoman for the Texas Fire Marshal's Office.


Investigators are pursuing about 100 leads, including a call to an arson hotline and a tip that there had been a fire on the property earlier on the day of the explosion, according to Moreno. Authorities have not said whether either tip was credible. About 80 investigators from various state and federal agencies are contributing to the probe. They hope to determine by May 10 what caused the explosion, Texas Fire Marshal Chris Connealy said at a state legislative hearing on Wednesday.

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), one of several state and federal agencies that monitor security at chemical plants, declined to answer questions about the breaches of security at West Fertilizer Co. State investigators also declined to comment.

Thefts of anhydrous ammonia are common in McLennan County, where burglars siphon fertilizer from trailer tanks into five-gallon propane containers, said McLennan County Chief Deputy Sheriff Matt Cawthon, who took up the position in January.

After reviewing crime reports from the past 12 years and speaking to deputies who responded to some of the break-ins, Cawthon said security was clearly lax at the plant.

The perimeter was not fenced, and the facility had no burglar alarms or security guards, he said. "It was a hometown-like situation. Everybody trusts everybody."

Chemical safety experts said the recurrent security breaches at West Fertilizer are troubling because they suggest vulnerability to theft, leaks, fires or explosions. Apart from anhydrous ammonia, the company stored tons of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that can be used in bomb-making. No thefts of that substance were reported to police.

"Regardless of what triggered this specific event, the fact that there were lots of burglaries and that they were after ammonia clearly shows this plant was vulnerable to unwanted intruders or even a terrorist attack," said Sam Mannan, a chemical process safety expert at Texas A&M University, who has advised Dow Chemical and others on chemical security.


Owners of West Fertilizer, responding through a representative, declined to answer questions about specific instances of theft or the level of security at the plant. The company has encouraged its employees to share "all they know" with investigators, said Daniel Keeney, a spokesman for the company.

The current owners of West Fertilizer are Donald Adair, 83, and Wanda Adair, 78, who bought it in 2004. Calls to a number listed for previous owner Emil Plasek were not returned.

In a 2006 permit application with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the company reported it would protect ammonia tanks against theft or tampering and conduct daily equipment inspections. A TCEQ spokesman would not comment about security measures. He said the agency's responsibility is to regulate emissions from the plant, not to oversee security.

Documents from the Texas Department of State Health Services show the West plant was storing 540,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and 54,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia in 2012. Ammonium nitrate was among the ingredients in the bomb used by Timothy McVeigh to blow up the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995, killing 168 people.

After that bombing, Congress passed a law requiring facilities that store large amounts of the chemical to report to the DHS and work with the agency to ensure proper security measures are in place to keep it out of criminal hands and protect against such attacks.

West Fertilizer did not report to DHS, despite storing hundreds of times more ammonium nitrate than the amount that would require it do so. Companies are required to report if they store at least 2,000 pounds of fertilizer-grade ammonium nitrate, or 400 pounds of the substance when it's combined with combustible material.

A 2005 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study identified hundreds of cases in 16 states where anhydrous ammonia was stolen for use in meth production. Some illegal labs mix anhydrous ammonia with ephedrine or pseudoephedrine and sodium or lithium to make methamphetamine, the U.S. Department of Justice reported in 2001.

In dozens of instances, the CDC said, the thefts by meth makers siphoning ammonia from tanks caused injuries or forced evacuations because gas was released into the environment. However, cases of ammonia theft have become less frequent since 2006, when new laws restricted the sale of pseudoephedrine, which is found in some common cold drug remedies, according to The Fertilizer Institute, an industry association.

Police records show West Fertilizer began complaining of repeated thefts from the facility in June 2001, when burglars stole 150 pounds of anhydrous ammonia from storage tanks three nights in a row. Nearly a year later, a plant manager told police that thieves were siphoning four-to-five gallons of the liquefied fertilizer every three days.

Randy Plemons, who was chief deputy sheriff during the years when the thefts occurred, declined to discuss specifics of his agency's response to the repeated break-ins.

"Whenever we were notified of the burglaries and thefts we responded to those," he said. "I can't speak to every offense."

Company owners downplayed security risks in documents submitted to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in 2006, saying thefts had dropped to zero over the preceding 20 months as meth makers now had found a substitute for anhydrous ammonia available at garden nurseries or major retailers.


Yet burglars and trespassers continued to target the facility. Following a series of break-ins in late 2008 and early 2009, including one where a trespasser visited pornographic websites on a secretary's computer, police told plant manager Ted Uptmore - who has worked at the company for decades -- to install a surveillance system. Later documents show the company complied. Uptmore did not respond to phone calls seeking comment for this story.

The last record of tampering was in October 2012, when a 911 caller reported an odor "so strong it can burn your eyes." The firm dispatched Cody Dragoo, an employee often sent after hours to shut leaking valves and look into break-ins. That night, he shut off the valve but reported it had been tampered with.

Two weeks ago, Dragoo, 50, was among those killed in the blast while responding to the fire.



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Между тем, исследование, проведенное New York Times, показало, что, «в последний раз инспекция по безопасности и гигиене труда осмотрела завод 13 февраля 1985 года. Уже тогда были обнаружены пять «серьезных нарушений, в том числе неправильное хранение и обработка безводного аммиака, а также недостаточная защита органов дыхания для рабочих».

[learn_more caption="О чем идет речь - исследование, проведенное New York Times, показало (на англ.)"]

The blast was so powerful that the United States Geological Survey registered it as a 2.1-magnitude earthquake. It reduced an apartment complex to a charred skeleton, leveled homes in a five-block radius and burned with such intensity that railroad tracks were fused. It killed up to 15 people and injured up to 180. Volunteer firefighters were missing. Residents of a nursing home were pulled from debris and rushed to hospitals.

By Thursday evening, one day after a fertilizer plant here caught fire and then exploded, no one among the hundreds of local, state and federal officials and first responders who converged on this town north of Waco was certain about the cause. They only knew its effect.

“There are homes that are no longer homes,” said Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton, a spokesman for the Waco Police Department, who toured the streets near the plant at 10 p.m. Wednesday, about two hours after the blast. “The apartment complex was roughly a 50-unit apartment complex. As you look at the front of that complex, you can see inside the apartments. Walls were ripped off, the roof was peeled back.”

A day later, it took the descriptive skills of survivors and emergency workers to get a sense of the true scope of the devastation — the authorities prohibited anyone not involved in the search-and-rescue effort from entering the area around the plant and even put a no-fly zone restriction on the airspace overhead.

But what became clear was that the explosion had destroyed a significant piece of a small town in the center of Texas, damaging up to 75 homes and setting off an extensive, meticulous search for survivors in the rubble of the plant and the surrounding buildings. The smoke that wafted over them seemed out of place in this green, cattle-rich area locally known as the boyhood backyard of the country singer Willie Nelson.

A spokesman for the F.B.I. in San Antonio said Thursday there had been no indication of criminal activity in the West plant explosion.

The authorities said they believed that at least 5 people and perhaps as many as 15 had died, though they said that number could rise. Three to five members of the West Volunteer Fire Department and those of other towns remained missing. They had responded to a fire that broke out at the plant about 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, and were fighting the blaze when the blast occurred about 7:50 p.m.

“The explosion came very quickly,” Sergeant Swanton said. “They knew the threat. They knew the seriousness of the situation they were in. They immediately started moving to an evacuation process, absolutely doing the right thing to try and get people out of harm’s way.”

Perry Calvin, 37, a married father of two with a third on the way, was one of the missing volunteer firefighters. He had been attending an emergency medical technician class in West on Wednesday evening when a firefighter in the class got a page about the fire at the fertilizer company, said his father, Phil Calvin.

Perry Calvin and another man drove to the scene together and got there before the explosion. The other man was found dead Wednesday night.

“It doesn’t look good, but we don’t have anything confirmed yet,” Phil Calvin, the fire chief in the town of Navarro Mills, said Thursday afternoon. About an hour after he spoke those words, he got the news, sitting by the phone at his home in nearby Frost: his son was indeed among the dead.

Perry Calvin was not even a firefighter with the West department. He volunteered with another department in a nearby town, but had rushed to the scene to help, because he happened to be close. He is the kind of person who would be right at the head of the line, his father said. “He would do what he could to put the fire out or help find people.”

Law enforcement officials said they had not determined the cause of either the fire or the explosion, and were focusing on the search for survivors. The blast occurred two days before the anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, an attack set off by explosives made from fertilizer that killed 168 people on April 19, 1995. And it happened two days after bombs exploded at the finish line at the Boston Marathon.

The White House issued a statement from President Obama, in which he pledged that the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal agencies would join state and local efforts “to make sure there are no unmet needs as search and rescue and response operations continue.”

Gov. Rick Perry called the explosion “a truly nightmare scenario” and said that information about death and injury is “very preliminary.” But he said that because of the size of West — the population is 2,700 — “this tragedy has most likely hit every family.”

“It has touched practically everybody in that town,” he added. Mr. Obama, the governor said, had phoned him from Air Force One, while on his way to Boston, to offer his support.

The response by federal officials echoed that of some of the country’s deadliest bombings, fires and acts of terrorism. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sent a 20-member national response team of explosives specialists, chemists and other experts, as had been done after the Oklahoma City bombing and the attack on the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. The Chemical Safety Board, the federal entity that investigates chemical disasters, said that it had sent an investigative team to the site.

The plant, the West Chemical and Fertilizer Company, which is owned by Adair Grain Inc., had only nine employees. It did not manufacture any products, but instead stored and sold agricultural chemicals and fertilizer to farmers. The company stored substantial amounts of chemicals used as commercial fertilizers that can become explosive under proper conditions: anhydrous ammonia and ammonium nitrate.

Anhydrous ammonia is stored as a liquid in pressurized tanks, and farmers inject it into the soil, where it vaporizes into a colorless, corrosive gas. Ammonium nitrate is usually sold in granular form, and was used in the Oklahoma City bombing. A filing late last year with the Environmental Protection Agency stated that the company stored 540,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate on the site and 110,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia.

Records kept by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration show that the last time the agency inspected the plant was 28 years ago. In that inspection, dated Feb. 13, 1985, the agency found five “serious” violations, including ones involving improper storage and handling of anhydrous ammonia and improper respiratory protection for workers. The agency imposed a $30 penalty on the company.

Last June, the company was fined $5,250 by the federal Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration for violations involving anhydrous ammonia. An investigator reported the violations following an inspection of the plant in September 2011, and the agency later determined that the company had corrected the violations.

An OSHA spokesman said the plant was not included in its so-called National Emphasis Plan for inspections because it did not produce explosives, had no major prior accidents and the E.P.A. did not rate it as a major risk.

Zak Covar, the executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, said the company had been in business since 1962 and was one of a number of small fertilizer companies across rural Texas. The company has “an average compliance history,” with one air-quality complaint registered. In that episode, on June 9, 2006, according to state records, residents complained to the commission about the “ammonia smell” that was “very bad last night.”

That occurrence was investigated by the agency and resolved with the granting of two air permits to the company by the end of that year, Mr. Covar said.

Because it was built in 1962, the facility was grandfathered in to state regulations, Mr. Covar said. The company was supposed to get reauthorized in 2004, but failed to do so. Mr. Covar would not speculate on the reason.

The disaster began with a smaller fire at the plant, which sits off Interstate 35. Videos posted online showed a large fire, visible from hundreds of yards away, followed by a fireball that blasted high into the sky and set fires burning into the night and smoldering until late morning.

At one Waco hospital, Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center, 28 people were admitted, including 5 who were in intensive care.

Danny Kaluza, 53, a wheat and corn farmer, was talking to some friends in a gasoline station on Main Street at the moment of the explosion. The blast blew the door of the station open. Mr. Kaluza described, as other local witnesses did, the mushroom-shaped cloud that rose in the sky.

“It was a loud noise, and after the noise there was a concussion-like wave of pressure that blew through the town,” he said.



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Буквально на днях, 29 июля сего года, серия взрывов потрясла завод Lake County в штате Флорида. Как выяснилось, незадачливый автопогрузчик проехал рядом с рабочим, который в тот момент работал с открытым баллоном, содержащим нефтяной сжиженный газ – пропан.

[learn_more caption="О чем идет речь - серия взрывов потрясла завод Lake County (на англ.)"]

A series of explosions rocked a Lake County propane gas plant, igniting a 200-foot high fireball, and sent the sound of "boom, after boom, after boom" through the neighborhood around it.

In all, eight people were injured, with at least four in critical condition.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott met with some of 200 first responders on Tuesday and was briefed on the investigation.

"What will the state assure people it will do, perhaps to prevent something like this in the future?" Scott was asked.

"You know what happens, when anything like this happens, is you have to stop and say, 'What can we do to make sure it doesn't happen again?'" said Scott.

John Herrell, of the Lake County Sheriff's Office, said early Tuesday that no one died despite massive blasts that ripped through the Blue Rhino propane plant property late Monday night.

Tavares Fire Chief Richard Keith said officials don't suspect sabotage caused the explosions, and sources close to the investigation told WFTV that one of the possible causes of the explosion could have been when a spark ignited after a forklift worker drove by while another worker was releasing gas from a propane tank.

"In my 36 years in the fire service, I've never seen anything like this," said Keith.

Officials initially scrambled to find more than a dozen employees after the explosions, and neighboring houses were evacuated, but no damage to them was reported.

"Management is comfortable saying all of those they knew were there tonight have been accounted for," Herrell said.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is at the scene investigating. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has opened an investigation, officials said.

One ATF investigator said during a walkthrough early Tuesday, one of the larger outside tanks sprung a leak and had to be addressed.

More ATF agents, including their main expert who worked on the Texas plant explosion earlier this year, are headed to Lake County for investigations. Officials said they're giving the workers time to calm down and remember what happened before they start interviews.

One person injured in the explosion was listed in critical condition at University of Florida Health Shands Hospital and three others were listed in critical condition at Orlando Regional Medical Center.

Herrell said others drove themselves to area hospitals.

Doctors couldn't give specifics on the injuries of the three patients at ORMC, but the director of the burn unit told Channel 9 his staff has what is called the "golden hour" to get the patients in, resuscitated and to start certain procedures.

The victims' airways can also be burned from heat and from toxins they might have breathed in, officials said, so they often needed to be put on a ventilator.

And with third-degree burns, the skin can be destroyed not just on the surface but the layers of injury can be very deep, said Dr. Howard Smith.

"The full thickness of the skin is destroyed, usually requiring surgery and a grafting and that probably may be, that's what we worry may be required for these patients," said Smith.

Tavares Fire Department Battalion Commander Eric Wages said five workers walked up to a command center firefighters set up near the plant Monday night with skin hanging off their arms, torso and faces. He said their arms were outstretched and they were in complete shock.

Blake Cottle lives in Mount Dora, about 10 miles away from where the propane tanks blew up on 300 County Road 448.

"I have heard tons of booms for at least 30 minutes," Cottle told WFTV.

"As you listened to it more, it sounded like a lot of explosions. The sky was bright orange and it was flashing," WFTV viewer Ashley McCormick said. "There were huge fireballs shooting up into the sky. And obviously lots of smoke."

"I grabbed my jacket and cat and went to the car. [I] didn't even have time to get shoes," said resident Jerri Wohlers.

Wohlers lives directly behind the Blue Rhino plant. She said the sound of propane tanks exploding woke her from a deep sleep, Monday night.

"It sounded like cannons," Wohlers said. "It was nuts."

Burnt and bent pieces of propane tanks littered her property.

WFTV also spoke with resident Mariah Ryle, who said, "The whole house shook and it was just explosion after explosion. The fire was actually so tall that I walked out my front door and just saw, like my neighbors across the street, I saw it over their roof."

Herrell said an evacuation zone was initially a 1-mile radius, but had been reduced to a half-mile radius.

The evacuation was later lifted and residents were able to return to their homes.

The Blue Rhino plant, which is northwest of Orlando, refills propane tanks typically used gas grills and other home uses. There were some 53,000 20-pound canisters at the plant on Monday.

Smoke still billowed Tuesday morning from a storage container on the property, which consists of a couple of warehouses next to each other. The parking lot was littered with thousands of blackened 20-pound propane containers.

Nearby, three 33,000-pound tanks of propane sat untouched. Lake County Battalion Chief Chris Croughwell said the hoses designed to spray water on the large tanks in case of fire, did not go off as planned because they had to be manually activated.

"Most sane people don't stick around for an event like this," he said.

Tavares Mayor Robert Wolfe said Tuesday that he was surprised to learn the hoses at the plant had to be manually activated. If Blue Rhino reopens the plant, Wolfe said he plans to raise the safety issue.

"That way, it's fail-safe," Wolfe said. "We're lucky those tanks didn't explode."

One of the large tanks had a small leak that was detected mid-morning, so fire officials poured water on it and later began draining it, Wolfe said. The threat was considered minimal and no evacuation was ordered, he said.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management responded overnight and briefed Gov. Rick Scott.

Gene Williams, a third-shift maintenance worker at the plant, said he was at the back of the warehouse when he heard two loud explosions. Most of the workers were inside the facility, but there were about five in the parking lot.

When he went to look outside, there was a fireball about 20-feet-by-20-feet about 100 yards from the plant's loading dock in an area where the 20-pound propane canisters are stored on plastic pallets.

After that, a forklift driver stumbled into the building. He had flesh hanging off his hands, and his legs and face were burned. Williams said he got the man in a van as the cylinders from the 20-pound tanks starting falling down around them.

He said they were doing repairs and painting the tanks when one of the paint lines had broken, but it was repaired. The workers were getting ready to go home when the explosion happened.

Based on what the forklift operator told him, the explosion was likely caused by a "combination of human error and bad practices, possibly. I don't want to speculate any further, that's what the forklift driver was telling me."

Williams said the forklift driver told him, "'I did what they told me to do, I did what they told me to do, and then this happened.' Something in that area must have triggered it. I don't know if he did something or something else triggered it."

Williams said they were able to cut off propane to the three big tanks, but they weren't able to get to the switch for the cooling hoses.

"It was too violent, too hot, to get in there and turn them on," he said.

Williams said one of the injured people was struck by a car trying to run across the road.

The Florida Highway Patrol confirmed that 29-year-old Leesburg resident Kaghy Sam was struck by an SUV driven by 72-year-old Gene Batson on a road near the Blue Rhino plant.

A statement from the FHP said Sam was running on the road "due to a large fire and several explosions" just before 11 p.m. Monday and "ran into the direct path" of Batson's vehicle.

Sam was flown to Ocala Regional Medical Center with serious injuries.

No charges were filed in the accident.

Blue Rhino is a subsidiary of Kansas-based national propane provider Ferrellgas. Spokesman Scott Brockelmeyer said Tuesday he didn't have information available about the safety water hoses.

"It's as sobering a situation as you can possibly imagine," Brockelmeyer said. "We have folks who are injured, and we've got Blue Rhino and Ferrellgas employees across the country who are keeping them in their prayers and sending good vibes their way."

Brockelmeyer said there were 14 full-time employees and 10 part-time workers in the plant when the explosions occurred Monday night.

Ferrellgas paid a $2,295 fine in November 2011 following an OSHA inspection that found a component at the end of an air hose used in the consumer tank refurbishing process was not present.

Brockelmeyer said the company corrected the issue and added that "the process is performed in area away from where the tanks are filled... so no product was being processed in that area."

Croughwell said firefighters who responded to the initial fire had to wait to enter plant site because conditions were so dangerous. Just as they were finally about to go in, four tractor-trailers parked next to the large propane tanks caught fire.

If the large tanks exploded, Croughwell said, "it would have wiped us out."

Keith said the explosions shook his house several miles from the plant.

"It truly sounded like a car hit our house," he said.

Marni Whitehead, 33, who lives less than a mile from the plant, said she was in bed ready to go to sleep when she heard a loud boom.

She ran outside and saw other neighbors outside and then they saw the explosions.

"We knew right away it was the plant, the propane plant," Whitehead said. "After that, it was just sort of panic."

Whitehead likened the explosions to Fourth of July fireworks.

"And it was just boom after boom after boom," she said.

Herrell said officials believe the fire was contained and wouldn't spread to another part of the plant.

According to the Leesburg Daily Commercial, the plant was built in 2004 and employs fewer than 50 people.



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По счастливому стечению обстоятельств обошлось без жертв и масштабных разрушений, ведь в данный момент на заводе находилось еще 90 тысяч таких баллонов. Это далеко не первый подобный случай. 6 октября 2007 года на литейном заводе Atlas Foundry в штате Вашингтон взрыв пропана убил одного из рабочих и уничтожил стоящие рядом строения.

27 марта 2000 года в столице Техаса – Хьюстоне произошёл взрыв в лаборатории химического комплекса Phillips Petroleum. Один человек погиб, более 70 было госпитализировано с ожогами, порезами и отравлениями угарным газом. Сегодня, создавая полиэтилен высокой плотности, здесь трудятся 750 рабочих и химиков. 25 июня 2008 года на предприятии вновь произошла массивная утечка пропана. К счастью, обошлось без жертв.

[learn_more caption="О чем идет речь - в столице Техаса – Хьюстоне произошёл взрыв в лаборатории (на англ.)"]

A massive explosion and fire killed one worker and injured 71 others at Phillips Petroleum Co.'s Houston Chemical Complex Monday afternoon, March 27, in Pasadena, Texas. This was the third fatal blast in the last 11 years at the chemical complex. At least 26 workers have lost their lives in these explosions.

Thirty-two Phillips employees and 39 subcontractors were taken to area hospitals for burns, smoke inhalation, cuts from flying debris and other injuries. As of Wednesday afternoon at least two workers remained in critical condition from severe burns and six others were listed in serious condition.

Company officials say about 850 Phillips employees and 100 subcontractors work at the complex, and about 600 workers were on duty when the blast occurred.

Tim Williams, a Phillips employee, told the Houston Chronicle, “I was in the main shop talking to a guy, and all of a sudden there was a loud boom. It hurt my ears. There was stuff in the air, and we just took off running.” J.J. Roberts, an employee of subcontractor HB Zachery, said she was working in a warehouse at the plant and saw a fireball that was a least one city block wide.

It took search crews five hours to locate the body of a missing employee in the rubble. The dead man was Rodney Gott, a 45-year-old supervisor, who barely survived an explosion at the complex in 1989 that killed 23 of his coworkers and injured another 130 employees. At the time Gott was in a building whose roof collapsed but he remained in the blazing plant to save a woman and attend to the injured.

Last October 23, Gott spoke at a memorial ceremony marking the tenth anniversary of the blast and said he had often been haunted by the thought that so many lives had been wasted in the tragedy. Gott leaves behind a wife of 20 years, their 10-year-old son, and an adult son from a previous marriage.

Monday's explosion leveled the K-Resin section at the complex where less than a year ago, in June 1999, an explosion killed two workers and injured four others. Afterward, federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials fined the company $204,000 for 13 alleged safety violations. The Phillips complex also had explosions in April 1999, when a rail car containing polypropylene blew up, and in August, when there was an explosion in the polypropylene section of the plant.

The plant produces 370 million pounds per year of styrene-butadiene copolymer (SBC), a clear, tough material used in a variety of products, including medical components, toys, candy wrap, food packaging, shrink wrap, cups and clothes hangers. K-Resin SBC, the trade name for the chemical, is made only at the Pasadena plant. Other chemicals, including polyethylene, polypropylene and neohexene, are also produced at the massive chemical complex.

The fire produced huge plumes of black smoke that spread over the heavily-industrialized Houston Shipping Channel and neighboring residential areas. Workers in neighboring plants and residents in the area were urged to remain indoors while children were kept inside school after the end of their lessons as a precaution against toxic fumes. Thirty-one schools followed “shelter in place” procedures, turning off their air conditioning and closing doors and windows.

According to the Chronicle, alarms sounded in the plant when the explosion occurred, but Pasadena's siren system didn't alert residents until more than 15 minutes later. Mayor Johnny Isbell said the system had been undergoing repairs because the sirens recently had been sounding when they were not supposed to.

The fire was finally extinguished shortly before 5 p.m., and Phillips officials said their monitors found no sign that anyone outside the plant was exposed to toxic chemicals, which they claimed were consumed by the fire.

Phillips employees are represented by the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International (PACE) union, which also operates labor-management safety committees with the company. Joe Campbell, the secretary-treasurer of PACE Local 4-227 in Pasadena, told the World Socialist Web Site, “Too many people have been killed in the complex over the last 10 years. We've got people who are scared to go back in that plant because they are worried there is going to be a reoccurrence. Several are going to psychiatrists.

“This is a tragedy for the contractors who were injured Monday too. But the truth is, instead of hiring union members Phillips employs contractors who have little or no experience working in a volatile place. On any given day there are 200 to 300 contractors at the facility.

“Phillips is one of the most penny-pinching SOBs there are. They are always talking about cost savings, just like the rest of corporate America. They've been cited so many times by OSHA, but all they get is a slap on the wrist and they promise to do better next time.”

Campbell said that chemical companies are located up and down the Houston Shipping Channel, including the Crown Refinery where PACE members have been locked out for four years. There was little doubt, he said, that the area's workers and residents suffered high rates of cancer and other chemical-related ailments.

The Chronicle reported that after the explosion coworkers and family members gathered at nearby hospitals waiting for loved ones to arrive. One chemical worker, Danny George, whose family has a long history of working in the industry and is aware of the risks, spoke to the newspaper while awaiting word on the severity of his brother's injuries.

“Phillips has got some problems,” George said. “There's too many explosions. You've got to look at the history. Now, when you hear of an explosion, the first place you look at is Phillips.”

A press release from the company on the day of the blast noted that all of the Houston Chemical Complex had been shut down because of the explosion. “However,” the press release said, “Phillips expects to resume polyethylene and polypropylene production in the next few days.”

Phillips, the nation's eighth-largest oil company, had $15 billion in assets at the end of 1999, and $14 billion of revenues for the year. Last summer, under pressure from Wall Street and facing a threatened takeover by Chevron Corporation, Phillips' new CEO announced a five-year restructuring plan to sell its chemicals and refining businesses and focus on exploration and production in order to significantly increase earnings and cash flow in 2000.



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23 марта 2005 года на втором по величине в США нефтеперегонном заводе British Petroleum в Техас-Сити взрыв паров углеводорода стал причиной гибели 15 рабочих. Более 170 человек получили ранения. Расследование выявило многочисленные технические и организационные нарушения персонала и руководства компании.

[learn_more caption="О чем идет речь - взрыв паров углеводорода стал причиной гибели (на англ.)"]

National News Release: USDL 05-1740
Date: September 22, 2005
Contact: Pamela Groover or Al Belsky
Phone: (202) 693-4676 (202) 693-1999

OSHA Fines BP Products North America More Than $21 Million Following Texas City Explosion
Company Agrees to Make Extensive Plant-Wide Improvements

WASHINGTON -- BP Products North America Inc. has agreed to pay more than $21 million in penalties for safety and health violations following an investigation of a fatal explosion at its Texas City, Texas, plant March 23 that claimed the lives of 15 workers and injured more than 170 others. The penalties are part of a settlement agreement announced today by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

"We know this settlement can never replace the lives that were lost or comfort the families that were devastated by this tragedy," said Jonathan L. Snare, acting assistant secretary of labor for OSHA. "But the agreement means that BP Products employees will be working in safer facilities because BP will be making the necessary safety and health upgrades."

The agreement settles citations issued against BP Products following the fatal explosion at the Texas City refinery complex caused by a fire in the Isomerization Unit (ISOM) when a cloud of hydrocarbon vapors ignited during the start up of the ISOM. The settlement also addresses other ongoing investigations at the Texas City Refinery and requires BP Products to address process safety management (PSM) plant-wide.

"This citation and penalty - nearly double the next largest fine in OSHA history - sends a strong message to all employers about the need to protect workers and to make health and safety a core value," Solicitor of Labor Howard M. Radzely stated. "BP will pay the full fine, abate all the hazards, and significantly improve their safety measures."

Under terms of the settlement, BP Products agreed to:

pay $21,361,500 in penalties and abate all hazards for which they were cited;
complete a review of the ISOM unit to determine how it can be operated safely and alert OSHA if and when a decision is made to start up the unit in the future;
retain a firm with expertise in process safety management (PSM), including pressure relief systems, safety instrumented systems, human factor analysis and performing process safety audits, to conduct a refinery-wide comprehensive audit and analysis of the company's PSM systems;
hire an expert to assess and report on communication within and between management, supervisors, and authorized employee representatives and non-management employees and the impact of the communication on implementation of safety practices and procedures;
submit to OSHA and BP Products' authorized employee representative, every six months for three years, logs of occupational injuries and illnesses ("OSHA 300 Logs") and all incident reports related to PSM issues;
notify the OSHA area office of any incident or injury at the Texas City facility that results in an employee losing one or more workdays during the same three-year period.

BP Products North America Inc. is part of BP of London, England, which engages in petroleum exploration and refining. The Texas City refinery, where the explosion occurred, is BP's largest oil refinery with thirty process units spread over 1,200 acres and 1,600 permanent employees.

Employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. OSHA's role is to assure the safety and health of America's workers by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach, and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

ATTACHMENT - Summary of Citations and Proposed Penalties

Summary of Citations and Proposed Penalties
BP North America, Inc.
Texas City, TX

Egregious Willful Violations

Non-intrinsically safe electrical equipment. ($70,000 x 167 = $11,690,000)

Failure to correct deficiencies in equipment that are outside acceptable limits for the pressure relief header subsystem, liquid knockout subsystem, blowdown drum stack, blowdown snuffing stream, blowdown vessel, quench system, raffinate tower site glass and 69 pieces of equipment tied into the pressure relief system in the ISOM unit. ($70,000 x 76 = $5,320,000)
Failure to compile written process safety information for the four systems in the ISOM Unit. ($70,000 x 4 = $280,000)
Failure to adequately evaluate safety and health impact of catastrophic blast for temporary trailers located near ISOM unit. ( $70,000 x 18 = $1,260,000)
Failure to evaluate alarms and instruments for design reliability and integrity of process systems to determine criticality or determine Safe Integrity Level. ($70,000 x 31 = $2,170,000)


Willful violations are those committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.

Willful Safety Violations

Numerous source vessels relieved to atmosphere through blowdown stack, which was not in a safe location and which was in poor condition. ($70,000)
PHA facility siting did not adequately address potential damage to the ISOM satellite control room where daily occupancy existed. ($70,000)
Failure to ensure that the emergency shutdown procedure for ISOM unit included specific information for emergency shutdown of the Raffinate Splitter. ($70,000)
Failure to ensure operators followed start-up procedure and procedure was not written. ($70,000)
Failure to ensure hot work permit was obtained prior to driving vehicles into the ISOM unit. ($70,000)


Willful Health Violations

Failure of individual in charge to perform an adequate site characterization. ($70,000)
Failure to warn employees of the developing fire and explosion conditions. ($70,000)


Serious Safety Violations

Handrail on stair 25 feet above lower level was not capable of holding 200 pounds. ($2,500)
MSDS for PSI for INT-ARU Raffinate was missing toxicity information. (grouped = $7,000)
PSI information incorrectly displayed safe operating limits for Raffinate tower as 70 psig while tower had been re-rated for 40 psig. ($7,000)
Failure to have correct P&IDs for ISOM and blowdown stack. ($7,000)
Failure to have PHA for human factors; operators required to activate pumps at base of blowdown drum in response to upsets. ($7,000)
Failure to resolve PHA recommendations for nitrogen purge on relief headers. ($7,000)
Failure to ensure refresher training at least every three years. Operators did not understand parameters concerning blowdown and Raffinate tower. ($7,000)
Failure to inform each affected contractor prior to start up of the Raffinate Splitter. ($7,000)
MOC to operate reflux drum in a flood condition changed Raffinate tower operation and procedures; training was not updated. ($7,000)
MOC to derate Raffinate tower did not ensure P&ID was updated. ($7,000)
MOC to derate Raffinate tower did not ensure SOP was updated. ($7,000)
PSM compliance audit action items were not addressed. ($7,000)


A serious violation is defined as one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.

Serious Health Violations

Failure of the ERP to address critiques. ($7,000)
Failure of ERT to don respiratory protection. ($7,000)
Failure to provide appropriate training to the incident management team. ($7,000)
Failure to monitor for asbestos following explosion. ($7,000)
Failure to maintain records of asbestos removal. ($7,000)
Failure to preserve and maintain employee asbestos exposure records. ($7,000)
Failure to conduct sampling for each job classification for each work area. ($7,000)
Failure to conduct STEL benzene monitoring. ($7,000)
Failure to notify employees of monitoring results. ($7,000)
Failure to provide urinary phenol tests to all employees exposed to benzene as a result of the ISOM unit explosion. ($7,000)


Other-Than-Serious Health Violations

Failure to record three recordable instances on the 2004 OSHA 300 log. ($1,000)
Failure to record STS on the 2004 OSHA 300 log.
Failure to record days away for two instances on the 2004 OSHA 300 log. ($1,000)


WILLFUL 490,000 [$350,000 for Safety & $140,000 for Health]
SERIOUS 156,500 [$86,500 for Safety & $70,000 for Health]



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22 ноября 2006 года в Массачусетсе на заводе растворителей и чернил прогремел взрыв чудовищной силы – 90 жилых домов получили повреждения. «То, что эти тысячи фунтов бомб никого не убили – это чудо Дня Благодарения» – воскликнул тогдашний губернатор штата Митт Ромни. Напомним, в тот год важный американский праздник выпал на 21 ноября.

19 декабря 2007 года, штат Флорида. Мощный взрыв в лаборатории компании T2 Laboratories Inc, занимающейся изготовлением бензиновых присадок, унес жизни четверых человек. Четырнадцать человек были госпитализированы, более ста пожарных едва справились с последующим пожаром, который местные чиновники называют «адским адом».

[learn_more caption="О чем идет речь - Мощный взрыв в лаборатории (на англ.)"]

An overheated chemical chamber caused the T2 Laboratories Inc. explosion that killed four people and rocked a Northside Jacksonville neighborhood last month, a federal investigator said Thursday.

The explosion's force was equivalent to detonating about a ton of TNT, said Robert Hall, lead investigator for the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, an agency investigating the blast. He said debris was thrown as much as a mile.

The blast "was among the most powerful ever examined" by the 10-year-old chemical board, Hall said.

The steel cylindrical chamber standing 14 feet tall was being used to mix chemicals for an ingredient in Ecotane, an octane-boosting gasoline additive that the company made at 3043 Faye Road.

It exploded Dec. 19 in what Hall described as "really an uncontrolled chemical reaction." Agency officials have said a liquid solution of methylcyclopentadiene was being mixed with metallic sodium.



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22 декабря 2008 года в Теннеси более 5000 миллионов литров угольной золы «прорвалось» наружу в результате разрыва дамбы, сдерживающей отходы тепловой электростанции. Токсичный сель из остатков мышьяка, свинца и других опасных компонентов заполнил близлежащие леса и поймы рек. Долгосрочные последствия трагедии на людей и животных остаются в значительной степени неизвестными. Эксперты говорят, что потребуются десятилетия, чтобы разобраться стоит ли переселять людей из этих мест...

[learn_more caption="О чем идет речь - прорвалось наружу в результате разрыва дамбы (на англ.)"]

The amount of coal-ash sludge released Monday when an earthen dike failed at a Kingston Fossil Plant retention pond was triple what TVA has estimated.

A TVA aerial survey done Tuesday and made public Thursday shows that 5.4 million cubic yards of fly ash spilled, covering hundreds of acres, destroying three homes, damaging others and clogging the Emory River.

The agency previously had said an estimated 1.7 million cubic yards had burst through the coal-ash storage facility in Roane County about 1 a.m. Monday. TVA officials had said the pond contained about 2.6 million cubic yards of sludge and that two-thirds of it had spilled.

TVA surveyed the area Tuesday with a radar system using laser light and revised its estimates.

The agency estimates that 78,000 cubic yards of ash are on railroad tracks and Swan Pond Road. About 3,000 feet of Swan Pond Road and 1,500 Swan Pond Circle are affected by the slide, according to TVA.

Swan Pond Road remains closed, except for residents who live in the area.

Crews using bulldozers, backhoes and dump trucks have cleared about 350 feet of debris from the road and railroad tracks.

There is no estimate when the cleanup will be completed.

Water sampled downstream of the plant, including at Kingston Water District intake, shows that concentrations of sampled contaminants were below levels established by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to protect fish and aquatic life, according to TVA.

The water, with normal treatment plant filtration, also would meeting drinking water standards, TVA said. Water sampling and analysis by TVA and other agencies will continue to monitor for contaminants in the river.

The pond that breached covers about 40 acres and is one of three containment areas at the Kingston plant. The ash is a by-product of burning coal at the power plant, which sits near the Emory and Clinch rivers and is one of TVA's largest fossil plants. The Emory and Clinch flow into the Tennessee River,

It generates 10 billion kilowatt hours of electricity a year, enough to supply 670,000 homes, according to TVA. Construction on the plant was begun in 1951 and completed in 1955.

Environmentalists have criticized TVA, saying the slide was avoidable.

Hundreds of fish were floating dead downstream from the plant Tuesday, and state and federal agencies have yet to complete water quality testing.

TVA spokesman Gil Francis has said the fish may have died from the freezing cold that contributed to the breach, not pollutants.

Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman Laura Niles said some toxic metals could be in the muck, including mercury and arsenic.

The bulk of the fly ash "consists of inert material not harmful to the environment," the TVA statement said.

TVA President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Kilgore said TVA may consider using a dry ash treatment process at Kingston that would reduce the chances of a similar event. Five of TVA's coal-fired plants use a dry ash treatment now; the other six, including Kingston, use a wet process.

TVA officials said 6 inches of rain over 10 days and overnight temperatures in the teens contributed to the dike's breach.

Reduced demand for electricity because of mild weather has led to the shutdown of nine units at Kingston and 15 other TVA fossil units, according to TVA.

More details as they develop online and in Saturday's News Sentinel.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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В хронике рукотворных катастроф не меньшее место занимают пожары, крушения поездов и мостов, сбои электричества и  прорывы трубопроводов.

Калифорния ежегодно «горит» в силу природной экосистемы. Но пожары, которые сожгли сотни квадратных километров в октябре-ноябре 2007 года, -  это пик катастрофы. Тогда погибли 10 человек, не менее полумиллиона бросили свои дома. Говорить о естественности этих пожаров не приходится – в одном случае был зафиксирован поджог, два других стали следствием крушения линий электропередач.

9 сентября 2010 года при взрыве трубопровода компании Pacific Gas & Electric в жилом пригороде Сан-Франциско погибли восемь человек. Федеральные следователи нашли многочисленные дефекты на швах «трубы».

[learn_more caption="О чем идет речь - при взрыве трубопровода погибли восемь человек(на англ.)"]

Residents returned Sunday to the ruined hillsides of their suburban San Francisco neighborhood, three days after a natural gas pipeline exploded into a deadly fireball.

A nearby risky segment of the gas line was due to be replaced, the utility responsible said, because it ran through a heavily urbanized area and the likelihood of failure was "unacceptably high." That 30-inch diameter pipe a few miles north was installed in 1948, and was slated to be swapped for new, smaller pipe.

California regulators ordered the utility, Pacific Gas and Electric, to survey all its natural gas lines in the state in hopes of heading off another disaster.

Investigators still don't know what caused Thursday night's blast, and even as dozens of people returned to their scorched homes – accompanied by gas workers to help restore pilot lights and make sure it is safe to turn power back on – officials tried to confirm just how many people died.

The remains of at least four people have been found, and authorities have said four are missing and at least 60 injured, some critically. Two people reported missing after blast were located Sunday, city spokeswoman Robyn Thaw said.

San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault said they're still trying to confirm whether some of the remains they found are human and identify victims.

Streets were crowded Sunday with PG&E cars and trucks, and representatives were handing out gift certificates for grocery stores. Nearly 50 homes were destroyed and seven severely damaged in the blast, while dozens of other homes suffered less severe damage in the fire that sped across 15 acres.

Returning residents were wearing wristbands that show police they live in the area.

Pat and Roger Haro and their dog, Rosie, have been living in a hotel room since Thursday after fleeing their home with the clothes they were wearing, dog food, water and an iPad.

When they returned, their home was marked with a green tag – indicating less damage than others with yellow or red tags – and their electricity was still off.

"Once I saw the house was still there then I felt a whole lot better," Pat Haro said. "I think we'll be a tighter community."

Patrick Yu said he's had nightmares and headaches since the fireball caused his ceiling to crash next to him on the bed while he slept.

Yu crouched in the doorway after the blast, thinking he was in the middle of an earthquake. When the shaking subsided, he found that the heat had warped the door so much he had to pull with all his strength to get out of the bedroom.

On Sunday morning, the 62-year-old learned his house had been red-tagged, meaning it has extensive damage and will require closer inspection before authorities can declare it safe.

"I have lots of memories in that house," Yu said. "Lots of stuff you can't replace."

A few blocks away, houses have collapsed into black and white debris on ground, with a smell like charcoal in the air. All that remain standing is a row of brick chimneys, while across the street, some homes are undamaged.

Meanwhile, local and federal officials are probing the cause of the explosion that blew a segment of pipe 28 feet long onto the street some 100 feet away, creating a crater 167 feet long and 26 feet wide.

PG&E submitted paperwork to regulators for ongoing gas rate proceedings that said a section of the same gas line about two and a half miles away was within "the top 100 highest risk line sections" in the utility's service territory, the documents show.

The company also considered the portion that ruptured to be a "high consequence area" requiring more stringent inspections called integrity assessments, federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration spokeswoman Julia Valentine said.

Nationwide, only about 7 percent of gas lines have that classification, she said.

PG&E spokesman Andrew Souvall said the company had planned to replace the piece of the gas line mentioned in the documents with 24-inch pipe as a part of its broader proposal to upgrade infrastructure that the commission began considering last year.

Souvall said Sunday that no one complained to the utility's call centers of smelling gas in the San Bruno neighborhood in the week leading up to the blast.

He said the ruptured section, which was installed in 1956, was last checked for leaks in March. The company said later Sunday no leaks were found.

The segment farther north was checked for leaks on Friday and none were found, Souvall added.

"We take action on a daily basis to repair our equipment as needed," he said. "PG&E takes a proactive approach toward the maintenance of our gas lines and we're constantly monitoring our system."

In ordering the company to conduct the leak survey on its natural gas lines, the state's Public Utilities Commission said Sunday that PG&E must give priority to higher pressure pipelines, as well as to lines in areas of high population density.

The order comes after Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, the state's acting governor, asked the commission to order the utility company to conduct an integrity assessment of its natural gas pipeline system.

The commission also plans to appoint an independent expert panel to help with their investigation.

Crews on Sunday packed into a crate the 28-foot section of ruptured natural gas pipeline blown out of the ground and hurled 100 feet in the explosion, National Transportation Safety Board vice chairman Christopher Hart said.

Investigators were to ship the pipeline to the NTSB's metallurgy lab in Washington, D.C., for intensive examination, he said.

Also being shipped were two 10-foot sections of pipe removed from the crater Sunday from either side of where the ruptured section had been.

Investigators believed they had collected all the sections needed to reconstruct the metal pipeline but asked that anyone who found metal fragments in the blast area contact the NTSB. The agency also wants to know of any instances of dead vegetation prior to the explosion, which could indicate a gas leak.

At a church service at St. Robert's Catholic Church on Sunday morning, the Rev. Vincent Ring conducted a prayer for the people who died, as well as a prayer for the victims who have not been identified.

"We turn to God and we ask for mercy upon all our brothers who are hurting so badly, whose lives have changed so drastically and whose help is so badly need from us," Ring said.


Contributing to this report were Associated Press video journalist Haven Daley and writers Lisa Leff and Marcus Wohlsen in San Bruno and John S. Marshall and Sudhin Thanawala in San Francisco. Burke reported from Fresno, Calif.

A Pacifica native known for his love of the ocean has become the eighth person to die as a result of the natural-gas pipeline explosion that leveled part of a San Bruno neighborhood.

James Franco, who lived 250 feet from the spot where a PG&E pipe blew up Sept. 9, died Monday at UCSF Medical Center after being taken off life support, according to a statement from friend Eric Laughlin. Franco, 58, was at his Glenview Drive home when the blast happened and was severely burned. He died as a result of his injuries, Laughlin wrote.

Franco grew up in Pacifica and was passionate about the coast. He enjoyed surfing as well as taking photos of surfers, sunsets, beaches and birds. It was not unusual to find him at the beach with his dogs or camping.

He lived in Las Vegas for a while, but returned to live in San Mateo County a few years ago.

"Jim was a fun guy," said 53-year-old Gilbert Fernandez, who grew up with Franco in Pacifica. "He drew a crowd because he was fun-loving."

Franco and some of the other residents who rented rooms in the house on Glenview, which was destroyed, managed to get out of the fire. But Franco was injured so seriously that doctors at San Francisco General Hospital placed him in a drug-induced coma. He was transferred to UCSF on Sept. 20, where his condition deteriorated.

Fernandez said the Terra Nova High School graduate, who worked in pest control, will be missed by the many people who knew him in Pacifica.

"It gets you deep inside," he added. "It's just devastating that something like that (the explosion) would take it all away from you."

Franco was preceded in death by his parents and his twin brother, Tom. He is survived by his younger brother and his 9-year-old niece.

Janessa, 13, and Jacqueline Greig, 44; Elizabeth Torres, 81; Jessica Morales, 20, as well three member of the Bullis family -- Greg, 50, Will, 17, and Lavonne, 87 -- also lost their lives in the blast and subsequent fire that destroyed 37 homes.

Funeral arrangements are being made for Franco. To make a donation to the James Franco Fund, contact Bank of Marin at 415-899-7456.

Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335.




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Позднее по итогам независимого аудита выяснилось, что руководство компании направило на бонусы топ-менеджерам более 100 млн. долларов из фонда обеспечения безопасности.

[learn_more caption="О чем идет речь - по итогам независимого аудита выяснилось (на англ.)"]

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. diverted more than $100 million in gas safety and operations money collected from customers over a 15-year period and spent it for other purposes, including profit for stockholders and bonuses for executives, according to a pair of state-ordered reports released Thursday.

An independent audit and a staff report issued by the California Public Utilities Commission depicted a poorly led company well-heeled in its gas operations and more concerned with profit than safety.

The documents link a deficient PG&E safety culture - with its "focus on financial performance" - to the pipeline explosion in San Bruno on Sept. 9, 2010, that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.

The "low priority" the company gave to pipeline safety during the three years leading up to the San Bruno blast was "well outside industry practice - even during times of corporate austerity programs," said the audit by Overland Consulting of Leawood, Kan.
Making money

But PG&E wasn't hurting for cash, according to the audit. From 1999 to 2010, the company collected $430 million more from its gas-transmission and -storage operations than the revenue authorized by the California Public Utilities Commission, which sets the rates the company can charge its customers.

"PG&E chose to use the surplus revenues for general corporate purposes" rather than improved gas safety, the Overland audit said.

The audit was unable to trace exactly how PG&E spent the diverted money. But in a separate report on the San Bruno explosion released Thursday, the utilities commission staff noted that in the three years leading up to the San Bruno explosion, the company spent $56 million annually on an incentive plan for executives and "non-employee directors," including stock awards, performance shares and deferred compensation.

"A cursory review reveals that a significant portion, in the millions, has been awarded to the CEO," the commission staff report said in a reference to former PG&E head Peter Darbee, who retired last year.
Cutting corners

By cutting back on pipeline-replacement projects and maintenance, laying off workers, using cheaper but less effective inspection techniques and trimming other pipeline costs, PG&E saved upward of 6 percent of the money designated for pipeline safety, maintenance and operations programs, the Overland audit said.

Meanwhile, on the revenue side, transmission pipeline operations were "very profitable" for PG&E since March 1998, the audit said.

Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, whose district includes San Bruno, called the company's diversion of customers' money "criminal behavior."

"When you divert funds intended for maintenance and safety to profits, there is nothing clearer," Hill said. "It is criminal."

Hill noted that the San Mateo County district attorney, the state attorney general and the U.S. attorney's office are conducting a joint investigation of the San Bruno disaster. He said he would talk to them about incorporating the Overland audit in their probe.

However, it is unclear whether PG&E broke any criminal statutes governing its behavior at the time, unless there was fraud.

The utilities commission staff report said that under state law and agency regulations, PG&E could spend less than what it was authorized to spend "because the commission is generally precluded from asking for the money back if the company overestimated its revenue requirement."

The Legislature passed a law last year, sponsored by Hill and others, that requires a utility to account for any under-spending and explain where every dollar went.
'Truly unconscionable'

"It is truly unconscionable that PG&E was allowed by the CPUC to steal ratepayer monies that should have been spent on safety and, instead, was put in the pockets of PG&E shareholders," said Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, who represents the devastated San Bruno neighborhood. "All these monies identified in the audit should be returned to ratepayers, presumably as a credit against the work that PG&E should have done, but didn't."

PG&E officials declined to comment on specifics of the two reports.

"Our No. 1 priority is to make our system the safest in the nation," said PG&E President Chris Johns.
No new money

The utilities commission issued the documents as part of a process that could lead to millions of dollars in fines. In addition, the commission recommended changes in how PG&E spends money on gas-system maintenance and pipeline replacement.

Before PG&E "seeks additional ratepayer funds," the commission said, it should:

-- Allocate $95.4 million that the company under-spent on capital expenditures since 1997 - including pipeline replacement - for those purposes.

-- Use the $430 million in additional revenue it collected since 1999 "to fund future transmission and storage operations."

-- Use $39.3 million that it collected but failed to spend for pipeline-transmission operations and maintenance since 1997 for those purposes.

Those recommendations put the commission and PG&E on a collision course.

In August, PG&E outlined a plan to modernize its gas-transmission lines in response to the San Bruno disaster. Included was money to replace 185 miles of pipe segments in PG&E's 5,700-mile gas-transmission system and to upgrade 200 miles of other segments unable to accommodate a modern inspection tool known as a "smart pig."

The company pegged the price at $2.2 billion and said 90 percent of that would be paid by gas customers through rate increases, with the rest covered by company investors.
Meeting new rules?

On Wednesday, PG&E issued a statement promising that it won't dun customers for any expense required to upgrade its gas system to meet existing federal and state standards.

"That said, let's be just as clear about what PG&E is proposing," the company added. "The vast majority of the pipeline safety work going forward is not about correcting issues from the past. It's about meeting entirely new standards being established by the California Public Utilities Commission."

PG&E estimated that the average residential customer will pay $1.93 per month more through 2014 to finance the work.

A Chronicle investigation published in March revealed that in 2000, PG&E sharply curtailed a program started in the mid-1980s to replace hundreds of miles of aging gas-transmission pipe. Records obtained by The Chronicle showed the decision was made by PG&E and approved by the utilities commission's safety chief.

The Overland audit noted that PG&E's replacement of transmission pipelines for safety purposes all but ceased in 2000.

Complete coverage

To see Chronicle reports on pipeline safety since the 2010 explosion in San Bruno, video of the disaster and government investigative documents, go to www.sfgate.com/san-bruno-fire.
San Bruno blast findings

Some key revelations in reports by the California Public Utilities Commission and auditors hired to investigate the deadly 2010 explosion of a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. gas pipe in San Bruno.

Testing: PG&E violated U.S. law by not conducting pressure-test inspections of the San Bruno pipeline after the company spiked gas levels in 2003 and 2008. Such tests would have revealed the substandard condition of the pipe and averted the 2010 disaster.

Video: PG&E destroyed a video of events at its gas-control center in Brentwood the night of the explosion, violating a state order.

Upkeep: PG&E diverted over the years more than $100 million collected from customers for pipe maintenance, replacement and safety to other purposes, including profit and executive bonuses.

Money: PG&E's gas transmission and storage operations collected $430 million over what the PUC authorized from 1998 to 2010.

Read the full reports: cpuc.ca.gov/puc/sanbrunoreport.htm



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29 марта 2013 года  произошел прорыв трубопровода Exxon Mobil в Арканзасе. Около миллиона литров черной жидкости стекло в ливневые стоки и устремилось к близлежащему озеру. Через два дня территория была взята на карантин, появились упорные слухи, что в экосистему попала не нефть, а тяжелые битумные смеси, вред которых может быть куда ощутимее.

[learn_more caption="О чем идет речь - прорыв трубопровода Exxon Mobil в Арканзасе (на англ.)"]

Exxon Mobil on Sunday continued cleanup of a pipeline spill that spewed thousands of barrels of heavy Canadian crude in Arkansas as opponents of oil sands development latched on to the incident to attack plans to build the Keystone XL line.

Exxon spokesman Alan Jeffers said on Sunday that crews had yet to excavate the area around the pipeline breach, a needed step before the company can estimate how long repairs will take and when the line might restart.

"I can't speculate on when it will happen," Jeffers said. "Excavation is necessary as part of an investigation to determine the cause of the incident."

Exxon's Pegasus pipeline, which can carry more than 90,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude from Patoka, Illinois to Nederland, Texas, was shut after the leak was discovered late Friday afternoon in a subdivision near the town of Mayflower. The leak forced the evacuation of 22 homes.

Exxon also had no specific estimate of how much crude oil had spilled, but the company said 12,000 barrels of oil and water had been recovered - up from 4,500 barrels on Saturday. The company did not say how much of the total was oil and how much was water.

Allen Dodson, Faulkner County judge who is the top executive for the county where the spill occurred, told Reuters in an interview on Sunday that the smell of crude was less potent on Sunday as cleanup efforts continued, saying it was weaker than the smell of fresh asphalt laid on a road.

"The freestanding oil on the street has been removed. It's still damp with oil, it's tacky, like it is before we do an asphalt overlay," he said.

Exxon said it staged the response to handle 10,000 barrels of oil "to ensure adequate resources are in place."

Officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) also were on site to investigate the spill.

Fifteen vacuum trucks remained on the scene for cleanup, and 33 storage tanks were deployed to temporarily store the oil.

The pipeline was carrying Canadian Wabasca Heavy crude at the time of the leak. An oil spill of more than 1,000 barrels into a Wisconsin field from an Enbridge Inc pipeline last summer kept that line shuttered for around 11 days.

The 848-mile pipeline used to transport crude oil from Texas to Illinois. In 2006 Exxon reversed it to move crude from Illinois to Texas in response to growing Canadian oil production and the ability of U.S. Gulf Coast refineries to process heavy crude.

The Arkansas spill drew fast reaction from opponents of the 800,000 bpd Keystone XL pipeline, which also would carry heavy crude from Canada's tar sands to the Gulf Coast refining hub.

Environmentalists have expressed concerns about the impact of developing the oil sands and say the crude is more corrosive to pipelines than conventional oil. On Wednesday, a train carrying Canadian crude derailed in Minnesota, spilling 15,000 gallons of oil.

"Whether it's the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, or ... (the) mess in Arkansas, Americans are realizing that transporting large amounts of this corrosive and polluting fuel is a bad deal for American taxpayers and for our environment," said Representative Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat.

Supporters of Keystone XL and oil sands development say the vast Canadian reserves can help drive down fuel costs in the United States. A report from the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, put together by oil and gas consultancy Penspen, argued diluted bitumen is no more corrosive than other heavy crude.

A year ago Exxon won a court appeal to charge market rates on the Pegasus line, or rates that are not capped and that can change along with market conditions without prior approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

That decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. said the Pegasus pipeline is now the "primary avenue" to move Canadian crude oil to the Gulf Coast. The ruling also said Exxon moves about 66,000 barrels per day on the line.

Last week PHMSA proposed that Exxon pay a $1.7 million fine over pipeline safety violations stemming from a July 2011 oil spill from its Silvertip pipeline in the Yellowstone River. The line, which carries 40,000 barrels per day in Montana, leaked about 1,500 barrels of crude after heavy flooding in the area.

Exxon has 30 days from the March 25 order to contest those violations.

According to PHMSA, the U.S. has 2.3 million miles of pipelines.


Exxon said that by 3 a.m. Saturday there was no additional oil spilling from the pipeline and that trucks had been brought in to assist with the cleanup. Images from local media showed crude oil snaking along a suburban street and spewed across lawns.

Twenty-two homes in the affected subdivision remained evacuated on Sunday, though Mayflower police were providing escorts for residents to temporarily return to retrieve personal items.

Jeffers said a couple of homes "appear to have small amounts of oil on their foundations," but he had no information on damage estimates or claims. Exxon had established a claims hotline for affected residents and said about 50 claims had been made so far.

Dodson said oil that made it to the street went into storm drains that eventually lead to a cove connected to nearby Lake Conway, known as a fishing lake stocked with bass, catfish, bream and crappie.

He said local responders that included firemen, city employees, county road crews, police quickly built dikes of dirt and rock to block culverts along that path that stopped crude from fouling the lake.

"We were just in the nick of time," he said.

Exxon later deployed 3,600 feet of boom near the lake as a precaution.

Dodson said crude also got into several homeowners' yards, which will take longer to clean up.

"We've just gotten used to having pipelines go through cities and counties, and you hope something like this doesn't happen. My heart goes out to all of the people personally impacted," Dodson said.

(Additional reporting by Timothy Gardner in Washington; Editing by Steve Orlofsky, Bernard Orr, and Chris Reese)



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23 мая 2013 года в районе Сиэтла рухнул в реку важнейший транснациональный мост, обеспечивающий американо-канадский грузопоток – до обрушения мост пропускал свыше 70 тысяч транспортных средств ежедневно.

[learn_more caption="О чем идет речь - рухнул в реку важнейший транснациональный мост (на англ.)"]

Security video from a RV dealership in Mount Vernon captured Thursday night's Interstate 5 bridge collapse into the Skagit River and the events that led up to it.

Robin Brigge, service manager at Blade Chevrolet and RV, said the 3 to 4 seconds of video taken around 6:55 p.m. from their security camera system shows a truck with a big box structure going over the bridge, then the span collapsing moments later.

"You see (the truck) hook the girder...he's on the freeway doing 55 mph, " said Brigge. "You can watch the bridge tumble into the river."

Brigge said when they realized their security camera had captured the footage, he immediately contacted state transportation officials, who spent a lengthy time examining the video Thursday night.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee said federal transportation officials are helping find a temporary structure to span the 160-foot section of an Interstate 5 bridge that collapsed, paralyzing the main north-south corridor between Seattle and Canada.

"There is a possibility we can use what's known as a Bailey bridge, which was something that was built and developed in World War II to span this 160-foot section," Inslee said during a Friday news conference. "We are searching the entire country right now, trying to find a Bailey bridge that might be able to provide us with a temporary span."

The detours through Mount Vernon have significantly slowed traffic through the area and options are few. Some possible routes include narrow roads and bridges that are in worse shape than the one in the river.

"We are focused like laser beams on detours at the moment," said Inslee.

Federal officials have promised to send $1 million to Washington immediately to pay for emergency repairs on the Skagit River bridge. Inslee declared a disaster proclamation, estimating bridge repairs costs at $15 million.

Inslee said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood promised his full support to get Washington's main north-south roadway repaired as quickly as possible. An average of 71,000 vehicles a day use that stretch of I-5 through Skagit County.

The collapse happened around 7 p.m. Thursday on the north part of the four-lane Interstate 5 bridge near Mount Vernon, about 60 miles north of Seattle. It sent a section of the span and two vehicles into the Skagit River below, though all three occupants suffered only minor injuries.

Inslee declared a state of emergency for Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom counties due to the impact on resident.

Initially, it wasn't clear if the bridge just gave way on its own. But at an overnight news conference, Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste blamed it on a tractor-trailer carrying a tall load that hit an upper part of the span.

The truck made it off the bridge and the driver remained at the scene and cooperated with investigators. Two other vehicles went into the water about 25 feet below as the structure crumbled. The three people were rescued and were recovering Friday.

"For reasons unknown at this point in time, the semi struck the overhead of the bridge causing the collapse," he said.

The trucking company involved says it received a state-issued permit to carry its oversized load across the bridge.

Ed Scherbinski, vice president of Mullen Trucking in Alberta, told the Associated Press the Washington State Department of Transportation had approved of the company's plan to drive a piece of drilling equipment along Interstate 5 to Vancouver, Wash.

He also said the company hired a local escort to help navigate the route. He said the driver was well-experienced with handling oversized loads.

"This is what we do for a living. We pride ourselves in doing things the proper way," said Scherbinski

Mike Allende, a state DOT spokesman, confirmed the truck had its permit.

"We're still trying to figure out why it hit the bridge," he said. "It's ultimately up to the trucking company to figure out whether it can get through. It's their responsibility to make sure the load they have can travel on that route."

Washington State Patrol said the truck was carrying a large steel box that contained drill parts and the box struck the bridge girders.

Scherbinski said company officials are as bewildered as everyone else. He said he's not sure whether the Mullen Trucking vehicle was the cause of the collapse, but the driver could see the bridge falling in his rearview mirror.

The truck made it off the bridge and the driver remained at the scene and cooperated with investigators. The driver has been identified as a 42-year-old man from Alberta, Canada. He was driving for Mullen Trucking. Trooper Mark Francis told the Skagit Valley Herald that the truck was hauling drilling equipment.

Cynthia Scott, of Spruce Grove, Alberta, said she spoke with her husband moments after he saw the bridge fall into a river in his rear-view mirror. Cynthia Scott said there was a small ding in one of the front corners of the load.

Dave Chesson, a state DOT spokesman, said there were no signs leading up to the bridge warning about its clearance height.

Traffic could be affected for some time. The bridge is used by an average of 71,000 vehicles a day, so the roadblock will cause a major disruption in trade and tourism between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia.

Detours have been set up to try to ease the congestion. Batiste urged drivers to avoid the area if possible, especially over the Memorial Day weekend.

Dan Sligh and his wife were in their pickup on Interstate 5 heading to a camping trip when a bridge before them disappeared in a "big puff of dust.”

"I hit the brakes and we went off," Sligh told reporters from a hospital, adding he "saw the water approaching ... you hold on as tight as you can.”

Sligh, his wife and another man in a different vehicle were dumped into the chilly waters of the Skagit River.

Sligh and his wife were taken to Skagit Valley Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The other man was reported in stable condition at United General Hospital in Sedro-Woolley, hospital CEO Greg Reed said.

Sligh said his shoulder was dislocated in the drop into the water, and he found himself "belly deep in water in the truck." He said he popped his shoulder back in and called out to his wife, who he described as being in shock initially as they waited for rescuers to arrive in boats.

The bridge was inspected twice last year and repairs were made, Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson said.

"It's an older bridge that needs a lot of work just like a good number of bridges around the state," she said.

The National Transportation Safety Board was sending an investigative team.

Jeremiah Thomas, a volunteer firefighter, said he was driving nearby when he glimpsed something out of the corner of his eye and turned to look.

"The bridge just went down, it crashed through the water," he said. "It was really surreal.”

Deyerin said the water depth was about 15 feet, and the vehicles half-visible in the water likely were resting on portions of the collapsed bridge.

Crowds of people lined the river to watch the scene unfold.

Bridge listed as 'functionally obsolete'

The bridge is not considered structurally deficient but is listed as being "functionally obsolete" - a category meaning that their design is outdated, such as having narrow shoulders or low clearance underneath, according to a database compiled by the Federal Highway Administration.

The bridge was built in 1955 and has a sufficiency rating of 57.4 out of 100, according to federal records. That is well below the statewide average rating of 80, according to an Associated Press analysis of federal data, but 759 bridges in the state have a lower sufficiency score.

According to a 2012 Skagit County Public Works Department, 42 of the county's 108 bridges that are 50 years or older. The document says eight of the bridges are more than 70 years old and two are over 80.

Washington state was given a C in the American Society of Civil Engineers' 2013 infrastructure report card and a C- when it came to the state's bridges. The group said more than a quarter of Washington's 7,840 bridges are considered structurally deficient of functionally obsolete.



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Стоит отметить, что в 2007 году в Миннеаполисе разломился мост похожей конструкции, перекрывающий Миссисипи. Тогда погибло 9 человек. На сегодня восемнадцать тысяч мостов в США помечены, как «критические» и требуют регулярных проверок на предмет появления трещин.

[learn_more caption="О чем идет речь - в Миннеаполисе разломился мост похожей конструкции (на англ.)"]

While the cause of the I-35W bridge collapse is unknown at this time, facts and background information on the bridge are coming to light.

Bridge History

--Built in 1964 by Hurcon Inc. and Industrial Construction Company.

--Steel trusses and deck were constructed by Industrial Construction Company in the summer of 1965.

--Bridge opened to traffic in 1967.

--Scheduled for reconstruction in 2020-25.


--Bridge carries 144,000 vehicles per day; including 4,760 commercial vehicles.

--Similar bridges in Minnesota include the Hwy. 123 bridge in Sandstone and the Hwy. 23 bridge over the Mississippi River in St. Cloud.


--Deck steel truss is made up of three parts: deck, superstructure and substructure (the structure under water).

--Bridge has a split deck (longitudinally parallel to traffic) and is 113 feet, 4 inches wide.

--Size/length: 1,907 feet long, eight lanes.

Inspection History

--Had been inspected annually since 1993; before that, was inspected every two years

--Last fully inspected in 2006. Partial inspections were conducted in 2007; to be complete in fall 2007

--The 2006 Fracture Critical Bridge Inspection Report, prepared by a MnDOT bridge inspection team, describes specific problems that caused the superstructure (part of bridge above water) to receive a poor rating.

The poor rating can be attributed to corrosion at some areas where the paint system has deteriorated, poor weld details in the steel truss members and floor beams, bearings that are not moving as they were designed to move, and existing fatigue crack repairs to the truss cross beam and approach spans.

--Deficiencies were acknowledged in the 2005, 2006 and 2007 inspection reports.

--MnDOT had taken several steps to address these deficiencies. Some cracking in the approach spans was repaired or was being monitored.

The Bridge Office had contracted with the University of Minnesota in 1990 to evaluate the fatigue stresses within the truss. Field tests were conducted. Measured and calculated stress ranges were less than the fatigue threshold, therefore, it was concluded that fatigue cracking was not expected in the deck truss. The following actions were recommended:

--Structural components of the main truss with the highest stress ranges should be inspected thoroughly, every two years.

--Critical locations of the floor trusses had high stress ranges, and should be inspected every six months.

--Although the report concluded that fatigue cracking was not expected to be a problem for the weld details used on the truss, MnDOT contracted with URS (a private firm) in 2003 to do a more in-depth fatigue and fracture analysis, and to determine whether the fracture of any single truss member would result in collapse of the bridge or whether the traffic load would be safely carried by other members of the bridge.

URS made three recommendations in January 2007:

1) Add redundant plating over the most critical 52 truss members,

2) Conduct a visual examination of all suspected weld details and remove measurable defects at suspected weld details of all 52 fracture critical truss members, or,

3) Do a combination of both 1) and 2).

MnDOT had begun inspection of the weld details and no weld cracks were detected. Therefore, MnDOT did not proceed with option 1 at that time. MnDOT intended to complete the inspection of the weld details on all of the remaining members after the completion of the current construction project.

Structurally deficient bridges

--A bridge is rated as "structurally deficient" when part of the bridge is found to be in poor condition. Many bridges in poor condition are still safe for use.

As deterioration continues, engineering analysis is sometimes necessary to recompute the safe load capacity of the bridge. If the safe load capacity is less than today's legal truck load (80,000 pounds), the bridge is posted at the newly computed safe load capacity.

--The I-35W bridge was rated safe for legal truck loads and permitted overweight truck loads of up to 136,000 lbs. The bridge was not under any restrictions.

--The condition of different parts of a bridge is rated on a scale of 1 to 9 (7, 8, or 9 are good condition ratings, 6 is satisfactory, 5 is fair, 4 is poor, 3 is serious, 2 is critical and 1 is closed).

A structurally deficient bridge is one for which the deck, the superstructure or the substructures are rated in condition 4 or less. For this bridge, the superstructure was rated 4.

--In Minnesota, there are 1,097 bridges that are considered structurally deficient and that have a sufficiency rating less than or equal to 80. Of these bridges, 106 are on the state trunk highway system and 991 are on the local system.

Federal report on bridges (NBIS database)

--The National Bridge Inspection Standards require states to annually report condition ratings for all bridges in their states to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Each MnDOT district has inspectors who are trained to inspect and rate bridge condition. That information is forwarded to MnDOT's Bridge Office where it is compiled and forwarded to the FHWA. The FHWA uses that data to determine which bridges are structurally deficient and functionally obsolete.

Recent work on the bridge

--Work involved concrete and joint repair, lighting and guardrail installation

--Work was scheduled to be complete Sept. 30.

--Cost for the work is $9 million.

(Source: Minnesota Department of Transportation)



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Американский список рукотворных катастроф можно продолжать довольно долго. Впрочем, перечисленных случаев вполне достаточно, чтобы увидеть главное. Техническое могущество США имеет обратную сторону. Его цена – загубленные жизни простых американцев и глобальные экологические проблемы, за которые предстоит расплачиваться многим поколениям.


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