Union criticizes evacuation at Sparrows Point

August 15, 1996|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

Union officials complained yesterday of inadequate evacuation procedures at Bethlehem Steel's Sparrows Point complex, where fumes from a waste-oil recovery operation sent about 40 workers to area hospitals Tuesday night.

Len R. Shindele, a grievance coordinator at United Steelworkers of America Local 2609, said he plans to send the complaint today to the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health agency.

"There is no alarm system to warn workers or a system to evacuate people in this type of situation," he said. "No roll call was taken once everyone was outside to see if everyone did get out, and then the next shift began arriving and no one told them not to go into the building."

The fumes that affected workers in the cold sheet mill resulted from a leak of the chemicals diphenyl oxide and biphenyl from a broken valve at PORI International, a waste-oil recovery firm in a building about 200 yards away, an official of the company said.

"This was just a small amount that leaked, but even a small amount has a very pungent odor, and the people at Bethlehem were not accustomed to that odor," said Damon Clauss, a PORI spokesman. "It is a liquid used to heat equipment and it is not at all a health hazard."

About 40 Bethlehem workers were taken by ambulances for hospital treatment for complaints of nausea, headaches and dizziness. All were released after treatment, authorities said.

Shindele said if the chemical that seeped into the steel mill building had been lethal, the situation would have been tragic.

"We are really concerned about what could have happened and what may happen in the future," he said.

Pub Date: 8/15/96

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