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River Port Assessing Hazardous Materials Risks

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ The Port of Catoosa is taking a closer look at risks and emergency response plans of industries storing large quantities of extremely hazardous materials.

Port staff recommended the study after the accidental release July 11 of highly toxic arsine gas at Solkatronic Chemicals, sickening dozens of people.

Nationally, the energy and transportation industries have stepped up assessments of potential risks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and the port has increased security measures.

Domain Engineering of Tulsa will review risks and regulatory compliance for Solkatronic Chemicals and three other companies. These companies store or use 14 chemicals listed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as extremely hazardous.

``We want to look at the emergency response procedures in place and upgrade our abilities, as a port, to respond to these emergencies,'' Port Director Bob Portiss said.

The study should be completed by the end of the month.

More than 100 port workers were hospitalized following the arsine release at Solkatronic. Thirty-five people have sued the company and the port authority.

In a lawsuit filed in Rogers County, they seek medical costs, damages, attorney's fees and an undetermined amount of punitive damages.

Most plaintiffs claim they have experienced short-term effects of arsine exposure.

Breathing just small quantities of the gas, a form of arsenic, can be dangerous and cause dizziness and nausea. It can also cause a breakdown of red blood cells, which can lead to kidney failure.

Among other companies being looked at is Advance Research Chemicals, which makes specialty chemicals for lithium batteries. Brenntag Southwest distributes chemicals used to make bleach and other products.

Solvay Fluorides makes inorganic chemicals for the auto industry.

All port shipments in September totaled 175,000 tons of cargo on 105 barges.

``We needed to have further clarification of what we have here at these four companies,'' port chairman Jerry Goodwin said. ``It's very hard to regulate when you don't know what the output is.''

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