Seven charged with criminal negligence after release of 70 tonnes of aromatic hydrocarbons sickened over 50 people

A chemical spill in China that leaked tonnes of C9 aromatic hydrocarbons into the Taiwan Strait earlier this month, and led to the arrest of seven people for criminal negligence, was actually more than 10 times larger than originally reported according to local media accounts. Instead of just under seven tonnes being released into the sea, the figure was apparently almost 70 tonnes.

Those detained include employees of the company that operates the wharf, Fujian Donggang Petrochemical, and the tanker crew. The Quanzhou government is reportedly accusing Donggang Petrochemical of intentionally underreporting the size of the leak.

The incident occurred on 4 November, during transfer of the solvent mixture – which comprises benzene derivatives with 9 carbon atoms – onto a chemical tanker at the Fujian province port city of Quanzhou. A preliminary investigation suggests the cause was a fault with the hose connecting the tanker to the wharf, and highlights a lack of safety measures being implemented. The spill affected 52 people, causing respiratory, eye and skin irritation. The mixture is also acutely toxic to fish, invertebrates, and algae, meaning the spill will have serious effects on local marine wildlife.

An environmental assessment of the Quanzhou spill is underway by local authorities. Meanwhile, district government officials are reportedly being accused of trying to cover up the spill rather than having it cleaned up properly.