State fines liquid nitrogen supplier in deadly Xytex gas tank leak in February

The Xytex office with a large liquid nitrogen tank visible in front Monday afternoon February 6, 2017 in Augusta. MICHAEL HOLAHAN/Staff

The liquid nitrogen supplier to an Augusta sperm bank is being fined more than $300,000 for problems uncovered after a February incident that killed a Richmond County deputy.

 

Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner Ralph Hudgens announced this morning that he is fining Airgas USA for failing to report the incident and for failing repeatedly to have re-inspections on its tanks. The company’s failure to change a decal on a tank at Xytex Cryo International led to an Airgas employee putting too much of the gas into the system and causing an overload.

Xytex employee Anita Wylds was severely injured responding to the leak when she went into the building to try and shut off the system. Richmond County Sheriff’s Sgt. Greg Meagher died after he went inside to rescue her and was overcome by the gas. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Xytex $30,000 in July for essentially not having a relief valve in a safe place.

Hudgens fined Airgas the maximum $5,000 for failure to report the incident – the office learned about it after seeing news reports – and $297,500 for 394 violation of Georgia’s Boiler and Pressure Vessel Safety Act. The company failed to have 193 triennial re-inspections on its tanks throughout the state after they were installed and failed to have two of those inspections on 201 of its tanks after installation, according to a news release.

Airgas installed a 3,000-gallon new tank at Xytex last December and a company employee later decided to change the calibration on the tank to a lower pressure setting. The decal on the tank was not changed, however, so when a company employee arrived Feb. 5 to deliver liquid nitrogen, too much of the gas was pumped in and overloaded the system, Hudgens spokesman Glenn Allen said.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com

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