Accidental benzene release risk assessment in an urban area using an atmospheric dispersion model
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Atmospheric Environment, ISSN: 1352-2310, Vol: 144, Page: 146-159
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- Environmental Science; Earth and Planetary Sciences; Accident; AERMOD; Benzene; Indoor; Outdoor; Population; Potential risk
This study applied the American Meteorological Society and Environmental Protection Agency Regulatory Model (AERMOD) to assess the risk caused by an accidental release and dispersion of the toxic chemical benzene in the vicinity of a highly populated urban area. The modeling domain encompasses the Korean megacity of Ulsan, which includes two national industrial complexes and is characterized by a complex coastal terrain. Multiple AERMOD simulations were conducted for an assumed emission scenario using background wind data from August between 2009 and 2013. The series of experiments produced the spatial accident probability patterns for different concentration levels during daytime and nighttime scenarios based on the corresponding dominant wind patterns. This study further quantifies the potential accident risk based on the number of affected individuals by combining the accident probability with the indoor and outdoor population estimates. The chemical gas dispersion characteristics depend on various local meteorological conditions, such as the land-sea breeze direction, which alternates between daytime and nighttime, and the atmospheric stability. The results reveal that benzene dispersion affects a much larger area during the nighttime owing to the presence of a nocturnal stable boundary layer with significant temperature stratification. The affected area is smaller during the daytime owing to decreased stability and enhanced vertical mixing in the boundary layer. The results include a high degree of uncertainty during the nighttime owing to weak wind speeds and the lack of a prevailing wind direction, which impact the vulnerable area. However, vulnerable areas are more effectively identified during the daytime, when more consistent meteorological conditions exist. However, the potential risk becomes much lower during the nighttime owing to a substantial reduction of the outdoor population.