Olin Chlor Alkali Tacoma is the Washington State plant owned and operated by the Olin Chlor Alkali chemical company. The plant is located on Thorne Road in the tide flats industrial area just east of Tacoma proper. The plant primarily uses chlorine bleach to manufacture household cleaners and water treatment products.
Olin Chlor Alkali’s Tacoma plant opened for operations in 1947. However, the plant was independently owned until Olin Chlor Alkali purchased it in 2007. Olin is the leading manufacturer of bleach in North America. Although the Tacoma plant is one of the smaller plants operated by the company, it is very important because of its strategic Pacific Northwest location. The Tacoma community is currently constructing several water treatment plants for which the company’s products will be used. The Tacoma plant sits on a small 4.5-acre lot and employs 18 people.
In addition, the company spends approximately $500,000 every year on local goods and services. This plant alone supports 20 jobs in the local community. The $90,000 in annual local taxes paid by the plant goes towards the development of schools and community services.
Safety is said to be a primary goal of company operations. According to public statements, the company strives to create a safe working environment for employees and a safe living environment for local residents. Olin Tacoma spent $1.3 million on plant improvements over the past five years that have increased safety. Among the improvements were the addition of security cameras, upgraded fencing and railing, and improvements to the rail loading area where chlorine products are very vulnerable. Chlorine sensors were also upgraded and are set to trip a state-of-the-art alarm system if chlorine saturation reaches dangerous levels. In 2006 and 2007, the plant spent over $750,000 on improvements that will reduce the environmental impact of plant operations.
Despite the actions the plant has taken to reduce harmful emissions and create a safe working environment for their employees, it is very likely that the facility itself may be of danger to those working at the plant. Until the 1980s, one of the major hazards of working inside chemical plants was the use of asbestos. Asbestos is a natural fiber and due to its lightweight and inexpensive qualities, it was commonly used as an insulator and fire-retardant at chemical plants similar to the Olin Chlor Alkali Tacoma Plant. Asbestos is a very toxic and harmful material and if inhaled over a long period of time, it can be fatal. One illness caused by exposure to asbestos is mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer with a latency period of 20 to 50 years. Because the cancer is so advanced by the time it is detected, it is very difficult to cure and conventional cancer treatments tend to be ineffective.