Fluoride Action Network

Evidence contradicts Samsung’s claim about hydrofluoric acid leak

Source: The Hankyoreh | February 16th, 2013 | By Kim Ki-sung, south Gyeonggi correspondent
Location: South Korea
Industry type: Electronics Industry

Police confirm Samsung used blast fans to get rid of gas, contrary to earlier claim

Samsung Electronics was using portable blast fans to force air out of its sealed semiconductor plant in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi province, at the time of a hydrofluoric acid leakage there last month that left one dead and four injured, police reported.

Song Byeong-seon, director of the violent crime division at the Gyeonggi Provincial Police Agency, said on Feb. 15 that police had confirmed the incident occurring some time between 6 and 7 a.m. on Jan. 28, just after gaskets were changed on the valves for the hydrofluoric acid tank that sprung a leak. At the time, the company instructed three or four of its workers and employees from subcontractor STI to use large blast fans to push air from the central chemicals supply system room outside the entrance, Song said.

The fans that were used were confirmed to have been removed around 6pm that day.

Police believe air containing hydrofluoric acid gas passed through offices connected to the factory and spread into the air outside the building.

This account contradicts the official explanation from Samsung Electronics, which said the gas could not have leaked to the outside from the sealed space because the structure in question was built to automatically send the substance that leaked, a diluted hydrofluoric acid solution, to a wastewater treatment site.

It also raises questions about the credibility of the Ministry of Environment’s claims that three to four air quality samples taken 790 to 1,560 meters away from the plant after the accident found no traces of fluorine.

The Citizens’ Institute for Environmental Studies released a statement on Feb. 14 saying that 2 to 318 mg/kg of fluorine were found in nine of fifteen food samples taken around the Hwaseong plant on Feb. 7, although it added that it was impossible to establish a clear connection with the accident.

“The fans were turned on after a counteragent was used and the area was checked for hydrofluoric acid,” said Lee Seung-baek, head of the Samsung Electronics communications team. “So to our knowledge no hydrofluoric acid leaked to the outside.”

On Feb. 14 the Ministry of Environment launched a special investigation into the management of chemicals at the Hwaseong plant, with participation from Gyeonggi province and the Korea Chemicals Management Association.