Work resumes at S. Baltimore chemical plant; Company accepts fault, fine in Oct. explosion


Nearly three months after a reactor explosion that injured five of its workers, Condea Vista resumed production at its South Baltimore plant late yesterday.

Condea Vista, which makes a key ingredient in household cleaners, received the state's permission to start up the plant after signing a consent decree Dec. 24 with the Maryland Department of the Environment.

In the decree, the chemical manufacturer admitted to illegally discharging visible emissions, failing to take reasonable precautions to prevent the accident and creating a public nuisance. Condea Vista also agreed to pay a fine of $75,000.

The plant had been closed since the accident while the company repaired the facility and investigated the accident.

On Oct. 13, with the plant shut down for maintenance, workers mistakenly used steam to clean out a reactor containing aluminum chloride sludge and granular aluminum, a catalyst in production. The reactor heated up, over-pressurized and exploded. Smoke from the resulting fire could be seen 5 miles away.

In the aftermath, company officials publicly apologized and said they would no longer use aluminum as a catalyst in production. Condea Vista also has pledged to help residents in the nearby neighborhood of Wagner's Point relocate.

Residents generally have condemned Condea Vista for the accident but have called the company's conduct since the accident generous and straightforward.

Pub Date: 1/05/99

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