A lawsuit was filed against the company and a bitter legal battle ensued after the disaster. Negligence and errors in design were finally proved to be the most obvious reasons explaining the tank failure. This event raised public morale to combat high handed corporates who did not pay much attention to environmental issues and public safety. And the technical aspects of the disaster are also extremely vital. A simple and stationary storage tank had behaved in a strange manner. This signals poor understanding of chemical engineering. Designing a storage tank is not just a mechanical engineering topic. Chemistry of the material to be stored in the tank is highly important. Continual research on the Boston Molasses Disaster can help the engineering community to learn from past mistakes and understand the importance of industrial safety in the context of holistic disaster management preparedness.
The Boston Molasses Disaster: What happened?
The Center for Chemical Process Safety or CCPS has furnished a very concise but informative description of the Boston Molasses Disaster.
On 15th January 1919 morning, a large storage tank in northern Boston blasted releasing tons of molasses. The steel tank was 50 ft or 15 m high. It had a diameter of 90 ft or 27 m containing nearly 2.3 million US gallons of molasses. All the rivets sealing the tank walls were spattered in the manner of machine gun firing, and chunks of steel were hurled across the area. Consequently, a wave or molasses rising above 15 ft or 5m began to surge ahead from the site of the blast. The wave had a speed of about 60 km/hr and traveled across two bocks of the Boston city with great momentum. Consequently, 21 people were killed, above 150 were injured, several buildings and vehicles were smashed, and the municipal system was completely disrupted. See Figure – 1. (CCPS 2007) Figure 1: Photographs showing the site of disaster before and after the molasses tank failure took place. Source: CCPS (2007) 1.1.2 The technology/engineering involved The CCPS (2007) has utilized a sound technical approach to describe the disaster. This approach is contextual with relation to both the old and new paradigms of engineering. The old paradigm of early 20th century engineering technology was devoid of facilities like computer aided design (CAD), industrial control systems, etc. The new paradigm is modern 21st century engineering which has power of new discoveries and superior computing efficacy. In sum,