Blast at Optima facility killed one and injured three others

An explosion and fire at an Optima Chemicals facility that is located on a Chemours site in Belle, US, has killed one person and injured three others. The incident occurred late on 8 December, leading to a shelter-in-place order covering a two mile radius, which was lifted the following day.

‘It was a massive explosion – it blew metal debris out onto the interstate and across the river … hundreds of feet away,’ Kent Carper, president of the local county commission, told a local radio programme the morning after the accident. He said the Optima facility makes a chlorine-based product to clean spas. ‘It was a dry bleach type of chemical, and somehow it interacted with methanol,’ Carper explained.

Carper said it appears that pipework leading down to the site’s river barge terminal blew up. An Optima statement suggests a 4500 litre metal dryer become over-pressurised during operation.

It has been since been confirmed that there was no associated chemical leak, and no danger to the local community. The state Occupational Safety and Health Administration is reportedly investigating the underlying cause, and the federal Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board is expected to initiate its own probe shortly.