Chemical Explosion At GM Stamping Plant Kills 1, Injures Others

Illustration for article titled Chemical Explosion At GM Stamping Plant Kills 1, Injures Others
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Fire departments and HAZMAT teams responded to a "chemical explosion involving chlorine" just before 2:00 this afternoon at GM's Marion Stamping Plant. One GM worker died and several others were injured in the incident.


WTHRand others report a 48-year-old contract employee named James L. Gibson succumbed to injuries from the explosion at a hospital just before 3:00 PM, but accounts are conflicting about how many people were injured.

Business Insider and Bloomberg say eight were hurt, WTHR and USA Today claim five.


Marion Fire Chief Paul David confirmed to WTHR that the explosion "involved a chlorine dioxide tank" and that rescuers performed gross decontamination (to a large group of individuals), but nobody seems to know what caused the incident.

GM spokesperson Stephanie Jentgen said "the situation is contained" and that "everybody has been evacuated," to the Associated Press while another spokesperson Bill Grotz announced that an internal investigation had begun.

An autopsy on the deceased Mr. Gibson is slated to take place tomorrow.

The Marion Stamping Plant shapes sheet metal for GM trucks, SUVs, and cars, employing over 1,600 people.


Image: GM

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themanwithsauce - has as many vehicles as job titles

As a chemist, the chlorine dioxide was probably used in the plant's water treatment equipment or their air oxidizer to break down pollutants and contaminants. If so, then it might also be somewhat close to the paint area which would also contain many dozens of chemical compounds in the paints stored at the plant. If the tank itself exploded, I wonder if there was some cross-contamination or an incorrect hookup of a dispensing unit?

Chlorine Dioxide (ClO2) is classified as a strong oxidizer so it is highly reactive with certain types of chemicals. I can only take some guesses as to what it might have come into contact with, but if it's anything like other treatment setups, there was probably some other "cleanup" chemicals in the area and that may have included pH buffering liquids such as metallic salts and acids. At one plant I worked in, we had tanks of NaOH (sodium hydroxide) and H2SO4 (sulfuric acid). ClO2 + NaOH = bad news. All it takes is a small explosion to rupture the tank and then the resulting spill just makes things go downhill from there. Such an explosion could have happened if a hose used for, say, NaOH is not cleaned before being used to pump or transport the ClO2. But that's just a random guess, and is pretty uncommon. Improbable, but not impossible.

Just a terrible, terrible accident, I hope.

Edit : Had a bit of a brain fart, NaOH and ClO2 wouldn't cause the big reaction I was thinking of. The short of it is NaCl would "form" and then dissociate again in a water solution, if that happened at all.