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Sussex chemical company fined after serious spill

31 May 2011

A chemical company has been fined £150,000 after a tank collapsed, releasing a large amount of waste solvents and water at a chemical plant in Rye, East Sussex. The HSE prosecuted Solvent Resource Management Ltd for breaching health and safety regulations, which led to the incident.

Brighton Crown Court heard that on Wednesday 11 March 2009 at approximately 2.10am, a steel tank which had been damaged by internal corrosion collapsed onto the retaining wall. This led to around 340 tonnes of solvent and contaminated waste water being released into the surrounding area, which was potentially hazardous and highly flammable. At the same time, a valve was knocked off an adjoining tank, which in turn released approximately 90 tonnes of contaminated waste water on to the site and neighbouring property. Due to the potentially, hazardous nature of the incident, East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service took the precaution of placing a 300-metre cordon around the site for two days.
The HSE investigation, which was assisted by the Environment Agency, found Solvent Resource Management Ltd had failed to manage the examination and inspection of the tanks at the site. An HSE Inspector who attended the scene issued a Prohibition Notice preventing the use of other tanks in the damaged area until they could be examined by a competent Tank Inspector and an Environment Agency Inspector. A separate Improvement Notice was also issued, requiring the inspection of the remaining storage tanks and putting in place a suitable inspection regime. HSE's Inspector Trevor Jones said: "The consequences of not operating a plant in accordance with accepted international standards can be catastrophic both to people and the environment. It was only timing that prevented this incident being more than a significant disruption to local residents and businesses. "If the company had put in place suitable and effective measures to manage the tank inspection programme, according to its contents and use, then this incident would have been prevented." Solvent Resource Management Ltd of Hanson House, Castle Hill, Maidenhead, Berkshire, pleaded guilty to Regulation 4 of the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999. The company was fined £150,000 and ordered to pay costs of £20,000.


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