Fire Devastates Barton Solvents Kansas Plant


A massive blaze last week at the Valley Center, Kan., plant of industrial chemicals wholesale distributor Barton Solvents forced evacuation of the surrounding rural town for two days and resulted in the loss of 235,000 gallons of industrial chemicals and base oils stored in a tank farm at the five-acre site.

The company primarily handles industrial lubricants, including some base oils, hydraulic oils and food-grade oils. David Casten, president of Des Moines, Iowa-based Barton Solvents, said the products at the Valley Center plant included a variety of industrial chemicals and about 20,000 gallons of base oils at the time of the fire. We are selling that to a couple of specific customers, he explained to Lube Report. Were not doing blending. The customers use the base oils to make products.

According to Casten, the fire started about 9:10 to 9:15 a.m. on July 17, and the cause remains under investigation. There were no injuries. The Fire Marshals initial report has said that it was static electricity at the tanks, he said. The Fire Marshal is still investigating, and the Chemical Safety Board is continuing to investigate.

The chemical fire forced a two-day evacuation of thousands of residents in the neighboring area. Barton announced it would develop a reimbursement procedure for Valley Center citizens and businesses adversely affected.

He said workers at the plant followed safety regulations properly. We followed all of our procedures to a T, weve done everything we can possibly think of, and we still had something like this, Casten said. Hopefully the investigations will find something.

The fire consumed the tank farm, two trucks and seven vans on the five-acre site, Casten said. The firefighters kept it from getting to our warehouse, he added.

Cleanup crews built a berm around the plant and vacuumed up foam and water used in fighting the fire, along with the remaining chemicals at the plant. Casten said they have so far placed them in five 20,000-gallon containers.

The Valley Center plants tank farm had about 43 tanks and 660,000 gallons of total capacity, according to Casten. We had about 235,000 gallons of material in the tanks at the time of the fire, he said. There are about between 80,000 and 100,000 gallons of material left well be disposing of. Casten said cleanup crews vacuumed any residual chemicals out of the tanks for disposal, including base oils, isopropyl alcohol and industrial solvents.

Air monitoring continues, he said, and the City of Wichitas environmental quality specialist has verified that air quality in the area remains at safe levels. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also sent three coordinators to assist emergency responders with air monitoring and other requests.

Barton has additional distribution facilities in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Kansas. The company provides custom liquid blending, food-grade packaging and laboratory services to customers in 13 states in the Midwest.

Casten said the companys contingency plan for the base oils – using its locations in Iowa and elsewhere in Kansas – has so far helped it avoid missing a delivery due to the fire. The specific customers that use the base oil are still able to bring rail cars in – not here but to another location – put them on trucks and deliver to customers, he said. Were juggling a lot of things right now, but its working.

He said the company doesnt have a dollar estimate on damages yet. While the investigations continuing, we cant dismantle anything at this point, Casten explained.

The company hopes to eventually reopen at the site. We plan to, as long as we meet the blessings of the regulatory agencies, he said.

Barton acquired the site from a company called Drumco, part of what was then Southwest Grease, in 1979. The property had no tank farm, Casten said, until Barton subsequently constructed it on the site.

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