S CAROLINA - Update...Water Tank Samples Studied in Bowater Explosion

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread


Published Sunday, March 19, 2000, in The State.

Water tank samples studied in Bowater explosion

CATAWBA -- Samples taken from a 180,000-gallon tank might help explain what caused an explosion that killed two people at Bowater Inc.' s pulp and paper mill here, company officials say. State officials and investigators from Bowater and Maine-based SW&B Construction have spent much of this past week trying to piece together what caused Tuesday's explosion.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration finished its on-site investigation Thursday and opened up the site to SW&B and Bowater investigators. OSHA officials refuse to talk about their investigation until it's complete in four to six weeks.

Barre Mitchell, Bowater's director of technology, said the tank was two-thirds full when it blew. He said the water tank holds water, but "apparently it was contaminated. That is what we have to find out."

The tank is supposed to collect steam created as wood is cooked in the paper-making process. Normally, the tank would contain only water, but it is possible that it contained trace amounts of turpentine or methane, two highly flammable substances derived from wood.

SW&B Construction President Scott Searway said in a prepared statement Friday that the 180,000-gallon tank had been drained and samples of its contents sent to an independent lab for testing.

The tank was not being used at the time of the explosion. The employees who died were welding on a pipe connected to the tank.

Frankie Lane Pittman, 57, of Chester and Danny Sherer Sr., 49, of Rock Hill were killed in the blast. At least four others were injured in the violent explosion, which shook the ground nearly a mile around it.

Tuesday's accident was the worst in the plant's history. Four Bowater employees lost their lives in separate incidents in 1962, 1978, 1982 and 1989.

"As we investigate the cause of the tragedy, we continue to have the families of our co-workers in our thoughts and wish to again express our condolences," Searway said.

SW&B is a general and mechanical contractor that specializes in the pulp and paper industry. The company employs more than 800 people nationwide and has done work in 15 states during the past year, Searway said. Some 25 SW&B employees work at the Catawba site.


-- (Dee360Degree@aol.com), March 19, 2000

Moderation questions? read the FAQ