1992 - Styrene Barge

Year 1992
Vessel Styrene Barge
Location Wax Lake Spillway, Louisiana, USA
Cargo type Bulk
Chemicals STYRENE MONOMER inhibited

Summary

On January 26, 1992, two barges collided on the Intracoastal waterway close to Wax Lake in Louisiana. One of the barges was in tow by the tug De Lasalle and the other by the tug Scaup. The barge towed by De Lasalle carried a cargo tank with 340,000 litres of styrene. Styrene (Class 3) was carrying in cargo tanks; flammable liquid, produces irritating vapour, may polymerize if contaminated or subjected to heat ;TLV 20 ppm ; IDLH 700 ppm ; marine pollutant
The collision caused a breach in the tank and styrene started leaking. The barge was released from the tug and dropped below the water level, causing more styrene to leak out. The styrene spread very quickly and within minutes it had begun moving downcurrent. The waterway was closed a few kilometers from the spill and booms were deployed to stop the spreading of styrene. As styrene is a clear and colourless liquid it was only the strong odour that showed where it was spreading. Later however it was found out that the styrene was easily monitored with the help of forward-looking infrared imager (FLIR). The styrene reached the soil on the south embankment and contaminated it. Some of it also polymerized and formed clumps with silt and other solids, causing it to sink. Later on this sunken polymer was washed ashore by waves. It was first attempted to pick up the styrene with the help of a belt skimmer with an oleophilic belt. However, the belt was dissolved by the styrene and it was found out that in order to use the belt it was necessary to first put peat moss on the styrene. The main part was therefore done with mechanical pickup by vacuum trucks mounted on barges. The operations lasted for almost a month and finished by the end of February 1992

Narrative

On January 26, 1992, two barges collided on the Intracoastal waterway close to Wax Lake in Louisiana. One of the barges was in tow by the tug De Lasalle and the other by the tug Scaup. The barge towed by De Lasalle carried a cargo tank with 340,000 litres of styrene. Styrene (Class 3) was carrying in cargo tanks; flammable liquid, produces irritating vapour, may polymerize if contaminated or subjected to heat ;TLV 20 ppm ; IDLH 700 ppm ; marine pollutant
The collision caused a breach in the tank and styrene started leaking. The barge was released from the tug and dropped below the water level, causing more styrene to leak out. The styrene spread very quickly and within minutes it had begun moving downcurrent. The waterway was closed a few kilometers from the spill and booms were deployed to stop the spreading of styrene. As styrene is a clear and colourless liquid it was only the strong odour that showed where it was spreading. Later however it was found out that the styrene was easily monitored with the help of forward-looking infrared imager (FLIR). The styrene reached the soil on the south embankment and contaminated it. Some of it also polymerized and formed clumps with silt and other solids, causing it to sink. Later on this sunken polymer was washed ashore by waves. It was first attempted to pick up the styrene with the help of a belt skimmer with an oleophilic belt. However, the belt was dissolved by the styrene and it was found out that in order to use the belt it was necessary to first put peat moss on the styrene. The main part was therefore done with mechanical pickup by vacuum trucks mounted on barges. The operations lasted for almost a month and finished by the end of February 1992

Resume

The waterway was closed a few kilometers from the spill.
Booms were deployed to stop spreading of styrene.
Surveillance/monitoring of styrene's spreading by using forward-looking infrared imager (FLIR).
Action on shore, mainly with mechanical pickup by vacuum trucks mounted on barges.
The operations lasted for almost a month and finished by the end of February 1992.However, the response towards this incident was late and not effective enough. It took three days to establish an area monitoring plan and by this time much of the spill had already sunk into the shoreline. The use of oleophilic belts on the belt skimmer is of course something that should have been foreseen. The use of FLIR to detect the styrene proved to be an excellent tool.

last modified 2020-12-09T12:12:21+00:00