Bay Hosts Public Lecture: “Industrial and Chemical Disasters- Lessons Learned”

Bay College’s Math Science Division presents a special colloquium by Ken Hinzman Sr. titled “Industrial and Chemical Disasters- Lessons Learned.” The free presentation will be at 4PM on Thursday, February 23 in room 125 of the Math Science Building. The presentation can be seen live via iTV at 3PM central time in room 107 of Bay College’s West Campus in Iron Mountain. Ken Hinzman is a Research Technical Specialist at BASF’s Safety Engineering facility in Wyandotte, MI. BASF’s Safety Engineering group characterizes thermal stability and explosibility of chemical compounds as well as performs dispersion model simulations and relief size calculations. Ken lives in the Metropolitan Detroit area.

Over the last century many industrial and chemical disasters have taken place. Key examples include BASF’s Oppau ammonium nitrate explosion, Union Carbide’s methyl isocyanate release in Bhopal and Phillips Petroleum Chemical Plant Explosion/Fire in Pasadena. All of these instances resulted from multiple systematic and procedural failures. All of them could have been prevented. It is easy to point fingers and lay blame. Human nature seeks to find a simple cause that identifies a single source for said occurrence. As the investigation unfolds we typically find many contributing factors leading up to the incident. There are often repetitive warnings that have gone unheeded.

Ken’s presentation will mainly focus on the Seveso Disaster of 1976, largely unknown in the United States. It will include events leading up to the disaster and the aftermath. The chemical plant in Milan, Italy produced trichlorophenol, used in the manufacture of pesticides and herbicides. One of the byproducts was Dioxin, made infamous by association with Agent Orange. An exothermic runaway reaction led to the venting of a six-ton cloud, containing polychlorinated phenols and byproducts, over an 18 km2 area. Fortunately, this did not directly result in any fatalities, but left dire consequences for the local population. The Seveso Disaster led to the Seveso Directive, which is concerned with the prevention of major industrial accidents and with limiting the consequences for man and the environment.

Time permitting, this presentation may be supplemented with other industrial and chemical incidents.
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