PORT ARTHUR — Port Arthur’s Veolia plant is scheduled to begin the destruction and disposal project of five precursor chemicals from the Syrian Chemical Weapons Program by the end of the week.
Mitch Osborne, Veolia Gulf Coast Branch general manager, said the plant has been working with federal, state and local agencies for months in order to prepare a unified — and safe — plan of action for when the chemicals arrive.
“Over here, it’s business as usual,” Osborne said. “But because of where these chemicals are coming from — just the pedigree of Syria being involved — every acronym you can think of for an agency is scrutinizing this project.
“We’ve been working with all the other agencies to make sure the shipments into the Port of Port Arthur and from the port to our facility out on Highway 73 are done safely. We’ve been meeting frequently to go through action plans, safety plans and monitoring plans to make sure this is a seamless operation that will protect our residents and the environment.”
Veolia was selected by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for the destruction and disposal of the chemicals because of its “long-standing experience in the hazmat industry and its reputation as a safe entity,” according to an Environmental Assessment conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
The PHMSA assessment states that “there are no explosives or munitions associated with the chemicals, and these chemicals have not been assembled into weapons or mixed for weapons purposes.”
“We’re not getting anything that was used by the Syrian agents or as a byproduct of the agents,” Osborne said. “All we’re getting is a small portion of the unused chemicals — probably 200 to 300 containers.”
Veolia will be responsible for handling 16 20-foot International Organization for Standardization maritime shipping containers, which will hold smaller containers with the chemicals — hydrogen fluoride, phosphorus pentasulfide, phosphorus trichloride, phosphorus oxychloride and hydrochloric acid.