The RHONE river overflowed due to heavy rains and flooded a paper mill located in an industrial area. This site produced kraft paper pulp from softwood bleached with oxygen, hydrogen peroxide and chlorine dioxide also stores black liquor, fuel oil, methanol, chlorate and several tonnes of wood. Further to three flooding incidents that occurred in 2002 and 2003, when the RHONE river rose to 10.27 m (French surveying and levelling), various measures were taken in the site: risk of flooding included in the danger studies, drafting of guidelines to secure the site, production workshops, black liquor boilers and turbines recorded at 10.56 m, 15 m and 21 m (French surveying and levelling), storage with 0.7 m retention tanks, anchored tanks, boxing up electrical equipment, piping mounted on racks (only water pipes were underground). On 1 December, the site was alerted to floods by fire department and consequently operated with reduced staff right from the next day. Given the unrelenting rise in the water level, an emergency procedure was implemented according to the water level: at 6.4 m NGF, implementation of a 600 mm diameter bladder on the pipes to prevent rain water from spilling on to the acidic effluents; at 9 m NGF, evacuation of staff and securing of the site by 25 employees (total stoppage of facilities, boxing up exposed equipment).The RHONE reached 10.50 m NGF on 2 December at 3.00 pm and 11.3 m NGF on 3 December at 3.30 pm. Since the site was completely flooded, the inspection of safety devices on facilities was carried out on boats. Despite IT, electricity and telephone communication failure, the operator could be reached on his mobile throughout the course of events. The water currents swept away 4,500 tonnes of wood ((ripping off the enclosure) and empty or sparsely filled containers (less than 3 m³ of products); on the other hand the anchoring of storage tanks proved to be efficient. Environmental impact was limited as there was no leakage of chemicals. Material damage, production losses and cost of site refurbishment were estimated at 11 M euros: 6 000 tonnes of wood and 2,000 tonnes of paper pulp were soiled or carried away by the current, 400 submerged motor units were taken down and cleaned, electric devices were damaged and the archives were dried using cryogenic processes.

Download the detailed report in .pdf format (642 Kb)