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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Bobby Wesley Bush, Jr., June 21, 2000. Interview I-0088. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Procedures for evacuation, containment, and clean up in the event of chemical spills

Bush talks about environmental safety issues and Hickory Springs Manufacturing Company's procedures for dealing with hazardous materials. Bush specifically discusses the use of toluene di-isocyanate (TDI) in the foam manufacturing plants and explains how it can cause respirator problems. Because of this, Hickory Springs had established procedures for evactuation, containment, and clean up of possible spills. Although Hickory Springs had only experienced one such spill, and a minor one at that, at one of its Conover, North Carolina, plants in the early 1980s, Bush indicates that Hickory Springs took this responsibility seriously and worked hard to implement procedures of "common sense" to deal with potential problems.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Bobby Wesley Bush, Jr., June 21, 2000. Interview I-0088. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

KATHLEEN KEARNS:
I guess I was meaning air emissions. I guess I was asking about whether the acetone issue was the main issue that you were dealing with environmentally, or were there other substances?
BOBBY BUSH:
Well, there are. We use a product called TDI, toluene di-isocyanate, that is a very hazardous material. It can cause respiratory problems if you inhale it too much or are exposed to it too much, and in certain people you can become sensitized to it and it can trigger asthmatic-type reactions and other respiratory problems. If you get it on your skin it can burn you. But it's heavily regulated. There are DOT standards, there are OSHA standards. The HAZMAT training on cleanup and spills. We're very, very careful, and we spend I don't know how many hours each year training our crew that handles it. We have to have a trained crew to unload, to take care of any type of spills, even a small spill. We consider everything to be very serious and we don't take any shortcuts with it. We have a guy-his name is Bill Eggleton-in fact he was in town here last week doing training. He's our trainer. He's gone to school, actually through some college courses, and actually has taught some classes and spoken at the college courses, he's so well known out in southern California. But he goes from plant to plant and gives these courses and refresher courses. The initial course is a forty-hour course, and then once a year you have to have an eight-hour refresher. And for the HAZMAT cleanup crew, the HAZMAT team, they have to have four drills, full-suited drills, a year.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
Response drills, that sort of thing?
BOBBY BUSH:
Exactly. We have different levels of awareness. The first level of awareness, which everybody in our plant is supposed to be, is that you're aware that something is not right, that there's a spill, and you alert the proper people and essentially you evacuate the plant. That's the first level. The second level is you respond to the problem and try to reduce the effect or mitigate or stop it, if it's just turning a valve off or something of that nature. And the third level is you're actually going in and cleaning up, in somewhat of an aftermath effect. I might not have that exactly right. David would be able to give you a little more detail. But just taking people off the job and training them for forty hours, that's obviously a whole week, and you've got work to do too. People are not at surplus right now. It's hard to get people and keep them.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
What's TDI's function?
BOBBY BUSH:
It's one of the three main components of polyurethane foam. You have two of the raw materials are oil derivative, the TDI, and the other's called polyol, P-O-L-Y-O-L. The other ingredient's water. The three of them in combination make foam. Now there are surfactants and catalysts and blowing agents and other little peripheral things, but you can make foam with just those three items. And it's an exothermic reaction. You can pour the three in a box, still them up, stand back, and it's going to rise and make foam. See, foam supplies its own blowing agent. The reaction creates CO2. That's what helps raise the bun is that the foam is expanding. The cell structure's forming and filled with CO2, and it's rising as the reaction takes place, liberating that carbon dioxide.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
So you have all of these teams trained to deal with spills. Have you had spills that they've had to deal with?
BOBBY BUSH:
Luckily most of our spills have been very small. To my knowledge, we've never had a big TDI spill. We've had a couple of polyol spills. I remember back in the 80s, down at Conover, one of the horizontal outdoor polyol tanks-. They were filling what turned out to be a full tank and blew the end of the tank out, and it's a messy situation. And polyol's not a hazardous material, but it's expensive, and it's not something you want to pour out on the ground either.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
I told you there were a couple scrapbook items that I wanted to get some detail on. Was this '83, around there?
BOBBY BUSH:
Probably.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
The report talked about a rupture of a storage tank, discharge of eighteen thousand gallons of a glycol-based chemical.
BOBBY BUSH:
That's it.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
That's it?
BOBBY BUSH:
Yes, propylene glycol is part of polyol.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
So they were trying to fill a tank that was already filled and so the new stuff going in-.
BOBBY BUSH:
I don't know if it had it at that time, but now we have these flow-off pots. If we do that, if we overfill a tank, it sounds an alarm, and then it sounds a second alarm and shuts the pump off. So we've just taken precautions. Things like that. I wouldn't have thought about that if we hadn't been talking about it, but we've just gone to all kinds of measures and tried to take a common-sense approach, not just what's required but what makes safety sense. Just putting all this effort into it.