Maddy Lauria - Delaware News Journal
Don’t be alarmed by a loud noise ringing out around the Delaware Memorial Bridge Tuesday night – it’s just a test.
Croda Inc. will test its new community alarm system at its Atlas Point chemical plant at 7 p.m. Those within a one-mile radius of the industrial complex on Cherry Lane in New Castle along the Delaware River should be able to hear the siren.
This is the first publicly noticed test of the new alarm system installed in the wake of a 2018 toxic gas leak that shut down Delaware Memorial Bridge for hours on a holiday weekend out of fear of fire and people inhaling a cancer-causing chemical.
The alarm being tested Tuesday night should be able to be heard in the communities of Collins Park, Swanwyck Gardens, Holloway Terrace and Simonds Gardens along the Route 9 Corridor near the plant, bridge and Interstate 295.
Community members sought a better warning system after fewer than one-third of the 3,760 Reverse 911 calls reached people and businesses that needed to know to shelter in place, New Castle County officials told The News Journal at the time.
"I know I didn't get a call when that happened two Thanksgivings ago," said Collins Park resident Jeanette Swain. "I didn't get anything on my home phone, my cell phone, nothing. And a lot of people didn't."
The Croda Community Notification System will consist of a steady tone that will go on for two minutes, according to a press release from the company. It is different than the on-site alarms the company uses to alert employees.
An incorrect gasket installed on the company's then-new bio-ethanol-based ethylene oxide manufacturing plant caused the leak on Nov. 25, 2018 that released more than 2,600 pounds of the toxic gas.
The company halted manufacturing of the chemical there while the leak was investigated by company and state officials. The facility restarted making ethylene oxide, with the blessing from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, last month.
Ethylene oxide is a known carcinogen. Exposure to it can cause a slew of medical problems including skin rashes, breathing issues, gastrointestinal problems and, in severe cases of prolonged exposure, coma, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It is also highly flammable and explosive.
Internationally, ethylene oxide is used to make ethylene glycol for antifreeze, to sterilize medical equipment and other consumer goods, and as a chemical intermediate, according to the CDC.
At Croda, ethylene oxide is used in the company’s products. They use it to make liquids that combine mixtures that otherwise would separate, like face creams and cosmetics.
Before building the new plant that went online just months before the leak, the company was having ethylene oxide shipped by rail from the Gulf Coast.
Since the 2018 leak, the company agreed to a $246,739 settlement with Delaware regulators for environmental violations that also required monitoring and environmental assessments, and paid the Delaware River & Bay Authority $150,000 in lost tolls and fines.
The Delaware Environmental Justice Community Partnerships, a group of concerned citizens and environmental advocates, appealed that settlement agreement and are asking for a community air monitoring system in addition to the new alarm and reinstatement of a community advisory council.
The company also settled 21 serious safety violations related to the leak for just under $200,000 owed to the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration, according to OSHA's website.
In an emergency situation, the alarm will sound for five minutes and people should tune into one of the following emergency broadcast stations for further instructions:
FMWTMC 1380 AM and 98.5 FM (DELDOT Radio broadcast)
FMComcast (Xfinity), Atlantic Broadband and Verizon FIOS also broadcast
Regularly scheduled 2-minute tests will also take place this year on May 12, Aug. 11, and Nov. 10 around 7 p.m., according to the company.
After the November 2018 leak at the plant, Croda also established a 24-hour information hotline for the community to call during times of emergency at (302) 429-5474.
Contact environmental reporter Maddy Lauria at (302) 345-0608, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MaddyinMilford.