4 March 2005
Thiokol's handling of lab fire improper, health officials say
The Daily Herald


PROMONTORY -- Local health officials weren't notified for nearly six hours about the explosion of a volatile research chemical that killed one person and potentially posed a hazard, The Herald Journal reported in a copyrighted story Thursday.

Bear River Health Department officials also were denied access for two days to ATK Thiokol's Promontory Point facility after the Feb. 14 explosion, which killed one employee and severely injured another.

County health officials expressed their concerns this week to company officials about how the company handled the aftermath of the explosion, which involved a research chemical being tested for the military.

"People's lives are at stake, and the question now becomes, 'How do we learn from this?' " said Board of Health Chairman James Bingham.

The meeting prompted a promise from Thiokol spokeswoman Melodie de Guibert that similar lapses wouldn't occur in the future.

Health Department Executive Director Lloyd Berentzen said his agency was concerned about the risk of contamination because of the unknown nature of the chemical.

Health officials said they were concerned because the situation involved the experimental chemical 135 TETNB -- a structural form of a chemical called trinitrobenzene -- that was released onto the bodies of the victims. The chemical, which could be absorbed through the skin, can damage the liver and nervous system.

Once health department officials arrived on the scene around 5:40 a.m. Feb. 15, they were prevented from accessing the site to initiate an investigation until the following day, said Keith Larsen, the agency's emergency services director.

But de Guilbert said health department officials were kept away to maintain evidence at the scene of the accident for investigators from the Box Elder Sheriff's Office and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Note: ATK Thiokol is the world's leading supplier of rocket motors for space launch vehicles, strategic missiles, and missile defense interceptors...ATK Thiokol capabilities are also an essential link in
next-generation global strike/rapid response weapons and human space exploration transportation systems. See: http://www.atk.com/CorporateOverview/corpover_thiokol.asp


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