Sensors and alarms helped keep gas leak situation under control

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Updated: 5/11/2013 4:34 am
Now that the gas leak is contained and those who live and work near Bayer Crop Sciences on Erskine Road are back to their routines, it's now time to figure out why it happened.

A malfunction of a valve is what caused multiple city departments to respond to a potentially dangerous situation. Bayer Crop Science vice president, Monty Christian told FOX 34 during a tour of the plant, safety is up to par and of utmost importance.

As soon as our crew arrived at the plant, they were handed safety equipment including hard hats, ear plugs and safety goggles. There were signs everywhere as a constant reminder of how important safety is at the plant. In the rare instance that there is an emission, all the safety precautions are in place.

"This is where the alarm sounded Wednesday evening when we first got an indication that there was an emission." Christian said.

There are two sensors to detect hazardous chemicals at the plant. One is indoors where the cotton seed is processed and the other is outdoors next to the cylinders where the hydrogen chloride is kept. When the valve malfunctioned, the outside sensor sounded the alarm. All plant operators also wear a second sensor.

"When they're in here operating, this is our second back up system. So we've got the larger sensor system, then we've got these hand-helds." Christian said. "The system worked like it should. And we had employees that then started the evacuation and started contacting local authorities."

Christian said he couldn't have asked for better teamwork and said Lubbock residents should be confident in how the plant and the city reacted to the situation.

"To see all the different groups come together, the departments, the fire department, the police department, Salvation Army, Red Cross with Bayer Crop Science and Airgas. I mean, there was a lot of coordination there." Christian said.

He also said although the leak never caused hazardous levels outside the plant fence, he believes the call to evacuate the surrounding neighborhood was smart.

"It's unfortunate that some people had to be displaced from their homes and we truly regret that. I know some businesses also weren't operating yesterday. Again it was an unfortunate situation but when we step back and say that there were no injuries here, we saw something that was implemented that everybody thought was best for the time, and again safety was the priority." Christian said.

He added that the cylinders holding the potentially dangerous chemicals undergo regular inspections and maintenance. Bayer Crop Science undergoes checks throughout the year for all of their equipment.

No indications as to how long OSHA will investigate, they were back at the plant to further their investigation on Friday morning.
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