Chemical Spill in Iowa City, IA today : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Hello, the east half of Iowa City, IA (including several daycares and groups homes for mentally retarded adults) was evacuated today for a couple of hours (10:30 a.m to around noon) due to a "chemical spill." It was Chlorohy-something that causes "temporary or permament eye damage and respiratory problems." The spill occurred at a Proctor and Gambol plant. It was a liquid that apparently forms a toxic cloud. There is no information yet as to how/why. I know people who have lived here as long as the plant has been open (I think at least 15 years) and there has never been anything like this before. If nothing else, it alarmed a lot of us, especially those of with kids in the daycares being evacuated. Will post if any media hints at Y2k related causes.

-- (, July 20, 1999


You know, you people could hang around here all day and post news about explosions and malfunctions and spills, but you still can't prove that ANY of it Y2K related.

You don't even have a working definition of what "non-compliant" means.

And every time you see another non-related article your little doomer minds makes an enormous jump of logic to conclude that if it failed in 1999 then it must be Y2K related. There is no other reason right? Nothing EVER malfunctioned before 1999.

Of course you'll counter with " but there are so many MORE malfunctions now than ever before".

But there isn't any more than usual. You just think there are because your concentrating so hard on bad news that it's the only thing on your mind. I think it's called " the red car theory "? You buy a red car and all of a sudden you notice how many red cars there are around you.

It's selective perception. I bet it's even a topic in psychiatric medical courses when it comes to paranoid delusions. But that is out of my expertise so I'll leave that up to your therapists post 1/1/00. I'm sure they'll be making a killing.

-- (, July 20, 1999.

doomer.suck: your regular perjorative comments notwithstanding, organizations from the United Nations and the World Bank to the CIA and the Department of Defense to the Gartner Group all recognize that Y2K disruptions are likely. I suppose you have an explanation for how each of these entities is compromised... my question is, what about you?

Scott Johnson

-- Scott Johnson (, July 20, 1999.

Shelter In Place: Make Your Kits

Shelter In Place

aka SIP

[ Courtesy of ECHO Caer Group, Emergency Communications for Hazardous Operations, taught through the Portland, Oregon Fire Dept Training Center ]

[ For Educational Purposes ]

"There may be a time when an emergency takes place in your community due to an airborne toxic chemical release. The outside air quality may be affected to the point that it is not safe to be outside or evacuate. In a case like this it is usually safer to shelter-in-place until wind disperses and moves the toxic chemical away.


Many, but not all, facilities (chemical/industrial plants) and emergency vehicles have alarm, siren, horn, or similar notification devices or systems. A three to five minute continuous signal means:

"Turn on TV or radio. Listen for essential emergency information."

These various signal devices may use different tones. The key is that they will be continuously activated for three to five minutes. If you hear this signal go inside immediately and turn on your radio or TV.

For Airborne toxic chemical releases the safest immediate action is to shelter-inplace while listening for further instructions.


1. Move inside immediately and turn on radio or TV for emergency information.
Proceed right away to:

2. Close all windows and doors.

3. Turn off ventilation systems. Remember heating, cooling, air pumps, bathroom fans, kitchen fans, oven/stove ventilation fans, dryer exhaust, chemney/fireplace vents, etc.

4. In buildings, go into and seal a room if possible.

5. Continue to listen to radio or TV for further instructions.


Go inside the nearest structure such as a home, school, store, public building. Bring pets inside if practical. If indoors already, stay there. Turn on radio or TV for emergency information. If you are in a vehicle, close all windows, manual vents and ventilation systems.

In a structure:
Shut all windows, doors, chimney or fire place vents. This includes everything that can quickly and easily be closed to prevent the chemical from entering.

Turn off forced air heating or cooling systems. Turn of stove and bathroom exhaust fans.

Go into a room, preferably with no, or few, windows or outside air vents. If possible seal doors, windows, vents, etc. with plastic and tape or wet rags.

Continue to listen to the radio or TV on a local emergency alert system station until the emergency is over or until you are given instruction to evacuate. (Use a battery powered radio if the power is off.)


It is important that you have a plan for your home or business for sheltering-in-place. Some key steps in this plan are:

* Knowing what doors and windows are likely to be open and assigning some one to check and close and LOCK them. Locking seals better.

* Knowing where the manual vents are and how to close them.

* Knowing where forced air heating or cooling controls/power exhaust vents are and how to turn them off.

* Knowing what room you will go to and how to seal it. Have a kit pre-prepared for this consisting of things such as plastic sheeting, strong tape, duct tape, rags, towels, water, snacks, etc.
Pre-cut the plastic to completely seal all windows and doors and any vents in your designated shelter room. With easy-to-see large labels, clearly mark on the plastic which opening/window/door/vent it fits.

* Have a radio (preferably two). Have one electric and one battery operated radio in the room you've identified. Know the emergency alert system station(s) for your area and have the station numbers written on a piece of tape attached to the radio.


Most chemical release incidents are short-term in nature. But for any potential emergency situation, always keep an adequate supply of contained food and water sources, flashlights, first aid kit, batteries, a portable radio, essential medicines and other essentials. Practice safety drills to be prepared and know the emergency plans for your workplace and schools.


When a release or spill is identified, some chemical plants dispatch trained emergency responders to quickly assess the situation and plan an approrpiate response. If offsite impacts are possible, local response agencies (Emergency Management Agency, Fire Department, etc) are contacted and consulted with. The local response agencies will then decide what actions, if any, are necessary to protect the surrounding community.

[ Note: these instructions were not written with Y2K in mind, when communications may be overwhelmed or out and emergency responders completely overwhelmed. ]

Sheltering inside a building is considered to be a proven method of protecting yourself and your family in the event of an accidental release.


* Close all doors to the outside and close and lock all windows (windows sometimes seal better when locked);

* Turn off ventilation systems;

* Monitor the local Emergency Alert System (EAS) radio station for updates and remain in shelter until authorities indicate it is safe to come out.

Select a room in the building where occupants can be the most comfortable and which is easy to seal off. This room should, if possible, provide access to water, toilet facilities, and adequate room for people to sit or lie down. The room should have a battery-powered radio, snack foods, and bottled water.

Many people opt for the master bedroom area with bathroom.

If the gas or vapor is soluble or even partially soluble in water -- hold a wet cloth or handkerchief over your nose and mouth if the gases start to bother you. For a higher degree of protection, go into the bathroom, close the door, and turn on the shower in a strong spray to "wash" the air. Seal any openings to the outside of the bathroom as best as you can. Don't worry about running out of air to breathe. That is highly unlikely in normal homes and buildings.

Be sure to make Shelter-In-Place kits, with pre-cut, marked heavy plastic and strong tape to seal your closed doors, windows, vents, exhaust systems -- anywhere anything from outside could get in. Keep your kit accessible in the designated room. Make sure all members of the family know what the kit is for, how to use it, and why. Drill and practice Sheltering-In-Place.


xxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (, July 20, 1999.

Our power was off the other night for an hour. First thing I thought of was Y2K. I found out a car hit an electric pole and took the line down.

Do you serioulsy thing a Chemical Plant would say they had a Y2K failure?

-- Anti-chainsaw (, July 20, 1999. Any information you may have that does lend credence to the possibility of this being Y2K-related, or links to news stories on the spill, send 'em my way...

Scott Johnson

-- Scott Johnson (, July 20, 1999.

If I thought Y2K, everytime the power went out, then I would have been thinking Y2K for at least the past ten years. Our electric goes out on an average of once every two weeks. Sometimes for just a few seconds, other times longer. But it certainly has nothing to do with Y2K and never has.

-- gilda (, July 20, 1999.

Scott Johnson, I will see what if anything I find out and notify you accordingly. Thank you To sucking doomer, I also wonder about the red car phenomonon. Hence my statement that IF anything comes up in the media about Y2K and the chemical spill/evacuation in Iowa City, I will pass it on to the forum; since this forum is for people interested in issues related to Y2K failures. Perhaps you mistakenly assumed you were still on the "Attention Seeking Misfits with No Job Prospects" discussion board.

-- (, July 20, 1999.

Thank you, y2kfallback, for the news. I look forward to any follow- up article. It may be Y2K, or not. Either way, please don't let the trolls keep you from posting. It takes a free exchange of information to judge the degrees of risk we all face, and we aren't getting that from the gummint or corporate America.

I'm just glad I don't live immediately downwind of either a chemical or nuclear plant. And I'm not talking just Y2K, either.

-- Margaret (, July 20, 1999.


Don't you know that we doomers are paranoid, delusional, conspiracy believing rednecks. Just because all those national and international orginazations tend to lean more toward 5 than a 1 on the scale, that doesn't prove anything. Because SUCK is right, in fact all those organizations are in on our little "plot". We've been found out now...Ohhhh, I better get outta here, they're a comin' ta git me!!....AHhhhhhhh.....

-- CygnusXI (, July 20, 1999.

"Know the emergency alert system station(s) for your area and have the station numbers written on a piece of tape attached to the radio."

Any simple way to identify which radio stations are emergency alert stations besides calling them?

-- Faith Weaver (, July 20, 1999.

Faith, call your nearest local fire station and ask them which radio station has been designated first to receive and relay emergency transmissions.

Test that station to be sure you can receive it clearly. If not, call that station on the phone and ask which station will be loudest, quickest, clearest for your location.

When a toxic chemical spill occurs, the last thing one needs is to fumble around with the dial desperately trying to get info.
Pre-planning is essential!
And darn this Y2K mess for endangering our lives and making us go through all these steps. But we will be grateful to have prepared when it becomes imperative that we rely on our preps.

3~0 3~0 3~0 3~0 3~0 3~0 3~0 3~0 3~0 3~0 3~0 3~0

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (, July 20, 1999.

From ws.htm...

[For educational use only]

Iowa City - An acid leak at Proctor and Gamble in Iowa City forced many people to evacuate their homes. Police say Proctor and Gamble workers were unloading chlorosulfonic acid Tuesday morning when they noticed it was leaking from pipes. The toxic acid is colorless, corrosive and vaporizes easily. Police say normally the chemical is a liquid, but exposure to air turns it to a gas. That's why firefighters evacuated people living within a quarter mile of the plant and sent them to West High School to wait out the crisis. Those people were able to return to their homes about an hour-and-a-half later. Stay with TV9 for continuing updates on this story.

and also p_who=kgan

[for educational use only]

Tuesday, July 20,1999 - 04:26 PM ET (KGAN) A chemical spill at the Procter and Gamble plant has caused a scare in Iowa City.

Authorities began evacuating the neighborhood around the plant on the city's eastside around 10:30 Tuesday morning, but people were allowed back into their homes and businesses after about an hour.

The chemical was chlorosulfonic acid, a toxic corrosive. About a-half a gallon to a gallon of it spilled.

Firefighters and a hazardous materials team doused it with water to prevent it from becoming airborne. No injuries were reported.

See references to chlorosulfonic acid at: du/~ehs/h2oreact.htm


-- Arnie Rimmer (, July 20, 1999.

Here's the New Jersey fact sheet on chlorosulfonic acid (it a PDF file so you'll need a viewer)...

-- Arnie Rimmer (, July 20, 1999.

Good to see you posting, Arnie! These killer chemicals are often colorless, odorless, deadly, sneak up on a person unawares and either kill or maim them, leaving permanent disabilities and chronic health problems.

And next year when it's dark, cold, and communications are out, how many alarms and alerts will get through and be effective?

3~0 3~0 3~0 3~0 3~0 3~0 3~0 3~0 3~0 3~0 3~0 3~0

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (, July 20, 1999.

This sobering note from the IEE Y2k web page

Alarm floods (G15.11)

A failure in a single component of a complex system may create alarm states in other components. A consequence is that each component may activate its own alarm with the following further possible consequences (a) the operator cannot identify the primary cause and deal with it (b) the system becomes so busy activating alarms that it fails to activate emergency procedures (c) alarm logs and monitors overflow so that it is not possible to identify the root cause (or the root cause is wrongly identified) Plans for emergency situations need to consider these possibilities as well as the possibility of multiple alarms coming from a common cause failure in several different systems to the extent that the operators are unable to cope. w-275.htm Alarm records (G2.16)

-- R (, July 20, 1999.

Any info yet on possible cause of leaks?

-- Moore Dinty moore (, July 21, 1999.

I've seen nothing thus far to indicate that the spill was anything other than a small, 'run of the mill' handling accident. Haven't seen the Cedar Rapids Gazette's coverage yet (their website isn't of much help).

There was apparently no one injured by the spill and everyone who was evacuated soon returned to their homes.

The initial report of '1/2 gallon' being the size of the spill would appear to be quite small, though I'm no expert on chlorosulfonic acid (is a half gallon 'a lot'?). At any rate, there does not appear to be any connection between the spill and Y2K. I'll post if I see anything different.

As a general preparedness issue, however, it is probably a good idea to know what industrial chemicals are being used in the areas in which you live and work and how you should respond to various accident scenarios. This makes sense even for 'run of the mill' handling accidents. One of the most common dangerous chemicals used in the area where I live is anhydrous ammonia. One small whiff of anhyrous ammonia will give you a life-long healthy respect for the chemical.

-- Arnie Rimmer (, July 21, 1999.

In follow-up to Arnie's post, the following EPA URL may help you uncover information on the large chemical users in your community:

-- Brooks (, July 21, 1999.

Brooks: Thanks for the pointer. Great resource. Here's the hotlink viro/index_lojs.html

-- Arnie Rimmer (, July 21, 1999.

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