Water/Wastewater

Protecting our Water – Keep Chemicals in the Tank

Jul 03 2014

Author: Bill Sholette and Ricardo Chavez on behalf of Endress and Hauser Ltd (UK)

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Recent events in West Virginia have shown that our water supply is in jeopardy of contamination from leaks or overfills of storage and processing tanks (Figure 1) at chemical, petroleum, water/wastewater and similar facilities.
In Charleston, WV, a tank containing 4-methylcyclohexane methanol leaked, causing contamination of the Elk River. The Elk River provides over three hundred thousand people with drinking water. These people were without tap water for at least five days. The total effect of the spill may not be known for months or even years.

The company that owned the storage facility where the tank leaked—Freedom Industries—is now facing at least 31 lawsuits, along with state and federal investigations. As a result, Freedom Industries filed for bankruptcy.
In the wake of this incident, it’s clear that additional scrutiny will be coming to chemical storage facilities, along with reviews of existing regulations. But with a few precautions and a relatively minor investment, this event could have been identified early on, and action could have been taken to mitigate the leak and its destructive aftereffects.

Instrumentation exists that will monitor the contents of a vessel and provide an alarm in the event of a leak or overfill event. These products have been used for years and are well established and reliable. Figure 2 shows typical instrumentation for monitoring tank levels to prevent overfills and leaks.


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