Ethanol Spill in Virginia

Michelle Kautz

norfold_southerAccording to the Alexandria Times, about thirty gallons of ethanol was spilled on a concrete pade at the Norfolk Southern Corporation’s “transloading” facility this morning and the facility failed to notify the Alexandria Fire Department about the spill.

City Manager Jim Hartmann called the incident a “failure to communicate,” a comment epitomizing the company’s relationship with the city. Norfolk Southern opened the facility in April of 2008 after a communication void among city officials and staff resulted in the corporation’s settlement on the West End despite the potential dangers involved with transferring the explosive chemical.

“I firmly request that Norfolk Southern establish a protocol in which the Alexandria Fire Department’s Emergency 911 Communications is immediately notified of all ethanol- and transloading-related incidents that occur within the City of Alexandria,” Hartmann stated in the letter to David Lawson, Norfolk Southern’s vice president of industrial products.

Ethanol fires require a special alcohol-resistant foam that relies on long-chain molecules known as polymers to smother the flames. Industry officials say the special foam costs about 30 percent more than the standard product, at around $90 to $115 for a five-gallon container.

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