Another chemical leak at a Samsung plant

Posted on : 2013-04-16 15:40 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Across South Korea, aging industrial facilities have broken down and caused a series of dangerous gas leaks in recent months

By Choi Sang-won, South Gyeongsang correspondent

On Apr. 14, chlorine gas leaked at the Samsung Fine Chemicals plant located in Ulsan South District’s Yeocheon neighborhood. 6 workers were hospitalized after inhaling the gas, which spread from the Samsung plant to nearby factories.

The leak was originally identified around 10:30 a.m. by factory workers who called the police after detecting “a strange smell that caused headaches”. Emergency workers moved Lee, 34, and one other employee from Samsung Fine Chemicals and four other employees from a nearby company to the hospital. The patients first experienced nausea and difficulty breathing but recovered and were sent home. Samsung Fine Chemicals evacuated all of its employees after the incident.

Samsung announced, “In order to produce sodium hydroxide, the chlorine has to be handled by deactivating the plumbing pump of the chlorine tank for a short period. It has been found that during this process, the pump valve was damaged and a portion of the chlorine leaked. The amount leaked was only 4 kg which is a small amount, and since the leak was fixed within 50 minutes, the damage was not great”.

No evidence of leaks or other damage was reported in the surrounding area.

Workers at nearby factories where no one was harmed have reported that there were traces of chlorine odor. The fire department and environmental authorities are currently investigating the possibility of additional leaks. Ulsan City’s fire department and police have found that the Samsung Fine Chemicals plant had recently finished its regular maintenance work and was in the process of stabilization. The authorities are currently investigating company officials to determine the cause of the leak and whether proper maintenance has been done.

Chlorine typically gives off a strong odor and spreads quickly through the air. When a person comes in contact with chlorine gas, they typically experience coughing and difficulty breathing, which are related to the respiratory tract. Due to these dangers, chlorine may not be categorized as a dangerous substance under the Safety Control of Dangerous Substances Act, but the Ministry of Environment has classified it as volatile substance.

The Samsung Fine Chemicals in Ulsan plant produces basic materials used to make resin and pharmaceuticals, including cement and paint additives and medicinal capsule coatings.

There was another chemical leak at a Samsung semiconductor plant in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province in February, in which one person died and four were injured.


Translated by Kim Kyung-min, Hankyoreh English intern


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