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posted by janrinok on Tuesday June 02 2015, @05:42PM   Printer-friendly
from the was-that-you? dept.

Chemical leak at Apple's NC Data Center

Around 2:00 PM EDT on Monday, Apple's Maiden, NC, data center suffered a chlorine leak that injured five people. It remains unclear whether the injured were Apple data center employees or construction workers.

Last week, a fire broke out among the solar panels atop the Mesa, AZ, sapphire manufacturing facility that Apple recently bought from GT Advanced. No injuries were reported.

The two events do not seem to be linked, except that Apple is having a bad run of luck with site safety.

Chlorine Gas Leak at Apple Data Center Puts 5 in Hospital

El Reg reports

Emergency crews received a call [June 1] about 2pm local time from the Apple facility on Startown Road, in Maiden, North Carolina. Local news helicopters captured footage of people being given medical attention and oxygen masks outside the facility.

The Catawba emergency services said initially two unknown chemicals were involved in the alert, later stating that it was a chlorine gas leak.

[...] It is speculated that the chlorine was a key component in the facility's water-cleaning facility, perhaps for its water-cooled components.


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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by TLA on Tuesday June 02 2015, @05:57PM

    by TLA (5128) on Tuesday June 02 2015, @05:57PM (#191207) Journal

    was it Samsung had a chlorine leak a few months back? I'll have a look through my slashdot submissions, I know I covered it even though it was buried (not newsworthy enough for them?)

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    • (Score: 3, Informative) by TLA on Tuesday June 02 2015, @06:00PM

      by TLA (5128) on Tuesday June 02 2015, @06:00PM (#191209) Journal

      yep, March 12, Travis County, TX. It was a sulphuric acid and peroxide spill though, not chlorine. Still necessitated a hazmat callout tho.

      http://slashdot.org/firehose.pl?op=view&id=70918175 [slashdot.org] (original submission on the other site, with source link)

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      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 02 2015, @06:14PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 02 2015, @06:14PM (#191213)

        I consider this to be news that is more regional and less "specific to IT", except for the obvious concern that it happened at Apple.

        I don't want to ask or say "why is this here, this isn't tech news" -- but this seems to fall under that category (and I guess I said it anyway).

        We don't get articles about traffic accidents in their parking lot or at intersections during rush hour to and from tech companies. I am not sure if infrastructure maintenance and safety issues merit the additional coverage, complete with discussion.

        I guess I would be curious to know what the Chorline gas had a role in at the facility, but I'll admit I am ignorant as to what chorline gas does for a data center.

        I searched for the term, and it seems that all of the headlines about chorline gas in a data center involve just Apple. it is speculated the gas is used to kill microscopic organisms in the AC piping, which sounds reasonable I guess. Next we'll hear that everyone got a sudden tan after being exposed to the nuclear power rods in the fake photovoltatic cells that were intended to provide UV radiation to kill what the gas didn't.

        • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Tuesday June 02 2015, @06:38PM

          by bob_super (1357) on Tuesday June 02 2015, @06:38PM (#191220)

          You've got to love how Intel's biggest-ever acquisition is still at five comments, while the last two "Meh" stories were way past that mark in a few minutes.

          • (Score: 2) by VLM on Tuesday June 02 2015, @08:41PM

            by VLM (445) on Tuesday June 02 2015, @08:41PM (#191262)

            Chipmaker buys chipmaker, eh. Like thats never happened before.

            Chlorine leak in a data center? That doesn't happen every day, or ... ever. WTF are they doing with chlorine in a data center? The data centers, COs, transmitter sites, microwave relay sites, telecom rooms, repeater sites I've been in never had anything like a chlorination plant, and I've seen a lot. Then again I've never been in a data center larger than maybe 400 feet on a side, and now a days thats "small" for a data center. That makes it an interesting story. Maybe giant data centers a mile on a side or whatever size they are, have hot tubs in there or saunas or nuclear reactors for backup power. That sounds cool. Its gonna get interest.

        • (Score: 3, Informative) by TLA on Tuesday June 02 2015, @06:41PM

          by TLA (5128) on Tuesday June 02 2015, @06:41PM (#191224) Journal

          Trichlorosilane (HSiCl3) is an intermediate compound used to produce extremely pure silicon, from which computer chips and other silicon based surface mounted components such as diodes and regulators. Chlorine was also used in some automatic firefighting systems (CFR, or chlorinated gas-phase fire retardents which together with brominated gas-phase fire retardents, form the active chemical component of halon fire systems in data centers). Halon systems were banned by signatory states to the Kyoto Accord (which for some unknown reason the US did not ratify neither did they even sign the Doha Amendment, which further limits greenhouse gas emissions including but not limited to replacing all CFC propellants in existing fire systems to non-CFC and removing/replacing existing halon systems).

          --
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          • (Score: 3, Interesting) by frojack on Tuesday June 02 2015, @07:44PM

            by frojack (1554) on Tuesday June 02 2015, @07:44PM (#191237) Journal

            But why would a data center have chlorine gas?

            Halon is breathable, and wouldn't necessitate ambulances and paramedics, so I don't think we can assume the chlorine was from the Halon system.

            BTW:
            Halon manufacture is banned in the US, but existing halon systems can continue to be used(at least until discharged in a fire). After that you might not be able to afford a recharge, because the recharge has to be done from recycled halon.

            Wise installation managers are recycling their halon gas and converting to the newer approved substitutes. The recycled halon is going to "critical usage sites" under criteria that is slowly getting tighter over the years. Currently it requires:

            The term "critical use" is used by HRC to identify priority uses of recycled halon. A use is considered "critical" when a need exists "to minimize damage due to fires, explosions, or other extinguishing agents, which would otherwise result in serious impairment of an essential service to society or pose an unacceptable threat to life, the environment, or national security even though all other appropriate fire protection measures have been taken."

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            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 02 2015, @08:07PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 02 2015, @08:07PM (#191248)

              No, speculation I had brought up was that the gas was used to kill what may otherwise grow in the AC plumbing, but otherwise has leaked.

              Unless they are trying to start a meth lab in the data center or something.

            • (Score: 2) by VLM on Tuesday June 02 2015, @08:14PM

              by VLM (445) on Tuesday June 02 2015, @08:14PM (#191252)

              But why would a data center have chlorine gas?

              The story I've been reading is keeping nasties from growing in the water coolant system. I've worked at data centers and central offices that were not water cooled, and they were taking out the water cooled mainframes at my first job so I don't know much about data center coolant water treatment. Sounds possible although unlikely. Living east in a civilized area aka no shortage of water maybe they just flushed the mainframe system weekly before it became stagnant or used car anti-freeze or something.

              Chlorine can cause some corrosion, I'm surprised they use it in such massive bulk, enough to sicken all those people. I had assumed water cooled plants were like tropical fish reef tanks and its all UV sterilizers and ozone bubblers, those are mostly harmless, at least WRT corrosion. I guess if you keep the Cl ion concentration reasonably low like tap water...

              As for water based machine tool coolant, that stuff gets unimaginably disgusting if it aerobically ferments, but just put an aquarium bubbler in the tank to oxygenate it and its all good, or at least not as gross. Theoretically the coolant has anti-rust additives such that oxygenated coolant won't rust the machines, in theory anyway.

              Being in a desert, and desert people being all proud that their golf courses being watered by slightly refined sewage (instead of the electrolytes plants crave) I wonder if the urinals drain directly into the coolant tanks thus requiring a little more chlorine for sanitation than you'd expect at a normal plant. That would explain a lot.

              Something to think about is our water utility has chlorinated our drinking water for an eternity, decades at least, and they never seem to kill anyone, presumably because they know what they're doing or some architectural thing like the plant being in the open air instead of a closet. Or, maybe, the only way so many people got sick was something ridiculous the engineers/architects couldn't plan for, like suicidal employee. Would not be surprised if theres more to the story. I mean, its not like the experiment from Half Life, people pretty much know how to handle this stuff and design plants using the stuff, so its going to be hard to identify as an unexpected accident, although I guess its possible, maybe massive equipment failure or something. I mean, you westerners do chlorinate what little water you have, don't you? So its not like nobody in AZ knows how to handle the stuff.

              Also I'm really disappointed in the community, when there's a report of a faulty chlorine tank, there should be a press release that obviously the user is just holding it wrong and there's nothing wrong with the design and they're just using it wrong, there's nothing wrong with the iChlorine iTank.

        • (Score: 2) by forkazoo on Tuesday June 02 2015, @08:07PM

          by forkazoo (2561) on Tuesday June 02 2015, @08:07PM (#191249)

          I don't think it's the fact that it's Apple as much as the fact that it apparently happened at a Data Center. Very large scale data centers are a relatively new thing, and few people have actually worked in one that size, so the hazards are non obvious, and still fairly interesting. Personally, I had no idea that a Cl leak at a data center was a danger. And if our industry needs stricted regulation to keep people safe, we would probably all benefit from keeping on eye on how many people are getting injured by this wort of thing. We don't want System Administration turning into the new Coal Mining.

    • (Score: 3, Touché) by Nerdfest on Tuesday June 02 2015, @06:23PM

      by Nerdfest (80) on Tuesday June 02 2015, @06:23PM (#191216)

      When will these companies stop copying each other ... maybe come up with a nice forklift accident or something.

      • (Score: 3, Funny) by Tork on Tuesday June 02 2015, @08:02PM

        by Tork (3914) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday June 02 2015, @08:02PM (#191246)
        I'm just tired of all these leaks Apple has to deal with about this time every year. Spoilers!!
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      • (Score: 2) by TheLink on Wednesday June 03 2015, @07:50AM

        by TheLink (332) on Wednesday June 03 2015, @07:50AM (#191487) Journal

        Go watch this if you like forklift accidents: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChOHnSL7ZCg [youtube.com]

        :)

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by NCommander on Tuesday June 02 2015, @06:33PM

    by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <michael@casadevall.pro> on Tuesday June 02 2015, @06:33PM (#191219) Homepage Journal

    I worked as a firefighter in Henrietta, NY (near Rochester), for four years. As part of that I was certified to do HAZMAT operations, and got a real good look at how much that stuff rolls throughout the country, as we have I-90. Accidents were rare, but we had be really ware. For those unfamiliar with the area, until relatively recently, we had both Kodak and Xerox as the big local companies, and both of them had internal fire departments to handle their own HAZMAT stuff, as well as the Monroe County HAZMAT Operations Team (locally known in the emergency response community as HAZMAT 8). One of the semi-decent things to come out the federal government was the NIMS standardization stuff which allowed easy activation of resources in the field; if an EMT sees a HAZMAT operation, there is a plan in place to get the right people to the right place, begin evacation, and such.

    By federal law, employees have a right to know what HAZMAT is located in their work place; you'd be shocked that almost every large business at least has something classified by OHS as HAZMAT, and the data sheets can be a fascinating read to learn in interesting new ways to die.

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    • (Score: 2) by VLM on Tuesday June 02 2015, @08:31PM

      by VLM (445) on Tuesday June 02 2015, @08:31PM (#191258)

      you'd be shocked that almost every large business at least has something classified by OHS as HAZMAT

      I've read the ones at work; I believe whats going on is you're required to list your carpet cleaner and tile cleaner and window cleaner buckets and lawnmower gasoline to prove you're serious and at least putting forth a reasonable effort. If you don't list anything, surely you're lying and actually do have barrels of unlisted stuff.

      Its outsourced online and anyone can go to "some site", enter location code (looks like a CC number?) and read about all my employers stuff. Its a pretty cool, obvious in retrospect, idea. They collect all the worlds MSDS, more or less, and the building super just clicks checkboxes and magically we get a giant report of all the onsite MSDS. That is a very wise online business. I was impressed. Works well too.

      There is, of course, safety fatigue danger... We have a MSDS for a couple gallons of latex wall paint in the building super's closet? Really? The security guard has a bottle of sunscreen too, if we're going to get that picky about this.

      The contents of the department fridge scare me more than the contents of the building super's closet.

      • (Score: 2) by NCommander on Tuesday June 02 2015, @08:56PM

        by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <michael@casadevall.pro> on Tuesday June 02 2015, @08:56PM (#191266) Homepage Journal

        That sounds a bit excessive. Reporting requirements for a given substance are set by OHS; you only need the MSDS if you have more than X on site ...

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  • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Tuesday June 02 2015, @09:28PM

    by kaszz (4211) on Tuesday June 02 2015, @09:28PM (#191279) Journal

    If someone finds the answer to why chlorine is present in the data center. I sure would like to know. Just reply if you find the answer.

    • (Score: 2, Informative) by Thesis on Wednesday June 03 2015, @12:06AM

      by Thesis (524) on Wednesday June 03 2015, @12:06AM (#191351)

      Chlorine is used in water treatment facilities to help control organics and to disinfect the water. If they do have a water treatment facility of any kind on-site, they are certainly using one of the many forms of chlorine (liquid, gas, or a compound such as HTH) available for that purpose. The liquid form is quite dangerous, for one volume of chlorine liquid can expand to 450 volumes of gas quite quickly. The hazardous to health exposure level is 10ppm, and all it takes is one good breath of it, and you are down. I've worked with this stuff.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 03 2015, @12:18PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 03 2015, @12:18PM (#191547)

        If they do have a water treatment facility of any kind on-site, they are certainly using one of the many forms of chlorine

        They could also be using ozone. (Probably a number of other compounds too as well.)