Washington, DC, February 7, 2010 – The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) is deploying a seven-person team to the site of a fatal explosion at the Kleen Energy Plant in Middletown, Connecticut. The team is expected on site midday on Monday, February 8.
According to media reports, the explosion at approximately 11:30 a.m. resulted in multiple fatalities and injuries and caused off-site damage.
CSB lead investigator Don Holmstrom said, “The CSB’s investigative team will examine the activities that were ongoing at the time of this accident, including any gas purging, as indicated by initial media reports.”
At a public meeting on Thursday, February 4, the CSB issued urgent recommendations that the national fuel gas codes be changed to improve safety when gas pipes are being purged – cleared of air – during maintenance or the installation of new piping. The Board’s urgent recommendations resulted from the CSB’s ongoing federal investigation into the June 9, 2009, natural gas explosion at the ConAgra Slim Jim production facility in Garner, North Carolina, which caused four deaths, three critical life-threatening burn injuries, and other injuries that sent a total of 67 people to the hospital.
The CSB issued a safety bulletin on gas purging in October 2009, because of the occurrence of multiple serious accidents during purging operations. Key safety lessons described in the bulletin included purging gases to a safe location outdoors away from ignition sources, evacuating non-essential workers during purging, using combustible gas monitors to detect any hazardous gas accumulations, and effective training for personnel involved in purging operations.