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An Essex chemical firm has been forced to pay damages following an incident that released tonnes of harmful substances.


Industrial Chemicals Limited (ICL) were left with a bill of more than £60,000 by Basildon Crown Court over the incident, which saw 150 tonnes of aluminium chloride (AlCl3) and hydrochloric acid (HCl) released after four of its hazardous storage tanks failed.


The industrial estate in Grays where ICL was based had to be evacuated, with access roads to the site also being closed. Fortunately, no-one was harmed in the incident.


The prosecution was brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after its subsequent investigation found that the firm had not been managing and inspecting the tanks adequately.


The court was told that the incident occurred when a glass-reinforced plastic tank failed, releasing 66 tonnes of AlCl3, which in turn caused damage to the three other tanks. Another 32 tonnes of the chemical, as well as 52 tonnes of HCl, were subsequently released.


Throughout the investigation, ICL were unable to show that the tanks were being maintained or used correctly. The HSE issued five Prohibition Notices to prevent other tanks from being used.


A later investigation resulted in ten more Prohibition Notices being were served for the firm's metallic storage tanks.


As well as being fined £50,000, ICL was ordered to pay costs of £14,231.


Following the hearing, the inspector on the case, Andrew Saunders, said that the incident was a minor one, with the HSE issuing timely advice to companies in how to work with chemicals, such as ensuring that staff are wearing the right personal protective equipment (PPE).

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