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India’s National Green Tribunal identifies LG’s disregard for safety as the cause of the lethal chemical release
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) is the government legal body with expertise and jurisdiction over environmental matters. After LG's toxic release of styrene gas into a nearby residential area killing and injuring people, NGT convened an investigative committee.
The NGT investigative committee delivered a critical final report on 28 May 2020 which concluded that LG’s “gross human failure” and the company’s lack of basic safety equipment and procedures caused the tragedy. The committee noted that, “The root cause thus appears to be the lack of experience of LG Polymers India and their Korean principal, LG Chem, in monitoring and maintaining full tanks of styrene that were idled for a long period of several weeks without operation.”
Key findings of the report include the following:
- An estimated 800 tons of styrene escaped from an old tank without any alarm. Community residents alerted police to the toxic gas release, not company personnel.
- No temperature sensors were present in the middle and top parts of the tank which leaked, reflecting a “clear cut case of negligence.”
- No automated sprinkler arrangement for vapor loss existed “as this had never been anticipated.”
- A chemical used to inhibit polymerization and styrene release had not been added to the styrene tanks since 1 April 2020, “since there was no stock at the site.”
- Once the styrene temperature rises above 52°C, the usual chemical inhibitor is not effective, however, “It seems LG Chem did not consider this possibility.”
- The report identifies 22 remedial measures including further studies. The report also includes 20 suggestions from a public consultation including concerns over exposures in pregnant women.
- Weak elements of the report include: 1. Acceptance of government compensation rather than LG being fully accountable; 2. Trusting LG to conduct a risk assessment study of its own accident; 3. Recommending only a short time period of five years for monitoring cancer in a population exposed to high levels of a probable human carcinogen; and 4. Ignoring the responsibility of the parent company, LG Chemical.