Nickel sulphate discharge into a river - issue 258

Issue Number: 258


Approximately 66,000 kg of nickel, in the form of nickel sulphate solution, were discharged into the river Kokemäki in southwest Finland on 5-6 July 2014, over a 30-hour period. Less than one week after the discharge, millions of dead mussels were discovered in the river over a 35km-length, causing a huge public outcry. The accident happened following maintenance work at part of the facility, when an incorrectly assembled heat exchanger triggered a leakage in the cooling system. Such a leakage would normally be detected thanks to the monitoring system, but this time, because of several errors, there was a delay in identifying and fixing the problem. The accident highlighted that authorities must be prepared to react fast to unexpected crises, including being ready to answer the press and social media. Specific organisational and technical improvements were put in place by the company including the development of the crises management procedure and clarification of emergency instructions; installation of a secondary circle to the cooling water system that leaked; installation of additional alarms and efforts to increase their visibility; environmental monitoring training for employees and increased cooperation with other facilities in the area.

IChemE is a registered charity in England & Wales (214379), and a charity registered in Scotland (SC 039661).