US agency probes chemical spill at battery plant owned by GM, LG Energy

Aug  (Reuters) – The U.S. workplace safety regulator said on Wednesday it was investigating a recent chemical solvent leak at an Ohio battery plant jointly owned by General Motors (GM.N) and South Korea’s LG Energy Solution (373220.KS).

The joint venture, Ultium Cells LLC, said on Wednesday it had discovered a cathode mixing slurry leak at its Ohio production facility and took immediate steps to isolate the cause and contain it.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said Ultium reported the leak on Monday and the agency is investigating what happened, the company’s actions and whether employees were at risk.

Ultium said none of its employees were present in the area and there has been no employee exposure or injuries.

After the leak’s discovery, the “immediate surrounding area was cleared, and area mixing operations were temporarily halted while we assessed and addressed the situation,” it said.

Operations have been fully restored after it was deemed safe, Ultium added.

The chemical can present public health risks and is commonly used in battery production.

OSHA said it currently has six open inspections at the Ultium Ohio facility and five closed inspections. The company has paid a total of $31,078 to date, OSHA said.

In December, workers at the Ultium Cells Ohio plant overwhelmingly voted to join the United Auto Workers (UAW) union but have not yet reached an initial contract.

Ultium said earlier this month that “during our 6-month collective bargaining process, the UAW has not provided any wage proposals or counter proposals.”

The UAW in July released a report criticizing health and safety practices at the Ultium Ohio plant.

GM and LG Energy Solution are building two other battery plants in Michigan and Tennessee.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Devika Syamnath