News and Updates

Glenville Explosion- Chemical Cloud Draws $33k Fine

Friday, May 05, 2017

By Brian Nearing

Published 10:47 pm, Wednesday, April 26, 2017

An explosion last fall at a Glenville chemical factory that created a cloud of toxic gas has led to a $33,000 state pollution fine. The explosion was caused because Starfire workers installed an "improperly sized scrubber as part of air pollution control equipment," according to a DEC statement.

Starfire Systems, which makes high-tech ceramic parts for aerospace, transportation and electronics, agreed to the penalty under a settlement this month with the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

On Aug. 19, workers at the company's new facility on 8 Sarnowski Drive, which had opened just the day before, were producing chemicals when equipment exploded under high pressure, causing hydrochloric acid to escape.

Several people walking nearby "felt the physical impact of the chemical reaction," according to the DEC agreement, which was signed by company CEO David Devor. The factory is across the road from The Reserve at Glenville, an apartment complex.

Hydrochloric acid is corrosive to the eyes, skin and mucous membranes, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Inhaling vapors in the short-term can cause eye, nose and respiratory tract irritation, as well as inflammation and excess fluid in the lungs.

During the gas leak, a passerby was treated by local emergency medical workers for "minor throat irritation" and released, the statement continued. There were "no significant adverse environmental impacts as a result of the explosion," it added.

In the DEC settlement, Starfire also agreed within the next 60 days to submit "a modified air registration including all emission calculations, and scrubber performance calculations."

Devor said the faulty equipment was rebuilt, and the plant has been operating normally. He added that the additional calculation requirements will be met. "We will be in complete compliance," Devor said.

When the new facility opened, the company said it would allow for increased production, as well as expanded research and development.

In 2012, Starfire was fined $9,500 by DEC for mishandling hazardous waste at its former facility. The state found that the company did not have written agreements for waste disposal, kept waste at its plant longer than allowed, and was not alerting local police, firefighters and hospitals as to the types of waste being stored.

The violations occurred at the former facility at the city of Schenectady's Tech Drive Business Park, off Maxon Road Extension, where the firm moved in 2010 from Malta. Founded in 1988, Starfire came under new management as part of a federal bankruptcy case.

At that time, the company was unable to show DEC inspectors which Starfire employees were responsible for managing hazardous waste, and could not prove that employees had been instructed in emergency contingency plans in the event of a mishap.

Also, the company failed to inform Schenectady police and fire officials as to its operations, facility layout and the types of hazardous waste at the plant.

The company also failed to train workers on how to inspect and replace emergency and monitoring equipment, on procedures for communications and alarm systems, and on "emergency procedures and shutdown of operations," the agreement stated.

bnearing@timesunion.com • 518-454-5094 • @Bnearing10