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Title: Cause Of Chemical Explosion Still Unknown

Source: The Tennessean Publication date: 2000-05-04

Investigations continued yesterday into the cause of an explosion and fire that unleashed a cloud of flammable gas from a west Nashville chemical plant Tuesday night. The reason for the blast at the Rhodia Co. plant, 4600 Centennial Blvd., remained unknown, Metro Assistant Fire Marshal Charles Scott said.

State occupational safety and health investigators also were reviewing the incident, a spokeswoman said, and a report is expected in about six weeks.

No one was hurt in the incident, Fire Chief Buck Dozier said.

The explosion and fire shut a 10-block span of Centennial Boulevard for about 2-1/2 hours. It prompted calls for people in west Nashville and across the river in Bordeaux to close their windows, shut off air conditioners and stay inside and away from the gas that escaped. No evacuations were called for.

The fire occurred in a part of the plant that produces sodium hypophosphite, a chemical used in nickel plating, often for products used in the automotive and electronics industries, plant manager James Raines said. The plant makes seven other phosphate-based products.

Smoke from the fire contained phosphine, a flammable gas that can cause respiratory and other problems.

"At this point, we're assessing the damage and also undergoing an internal investigation into the cause ... so we can take corrective action to prevent any recurrences," Raines said.

The part of the plant that makes sodium hypophosphite was out of service as the investigation continued, he said. Production continued in the rest of the facility. Workers assigned to the unit where the fire occurred were shifted to other jobs at the plant, he said. Four workers were on duty there when the blast occurred, he said, but none was injured.

Raines, who has been plant manager for 12 years, said no lost- time injuries have occurred at the plant for 20 years, and during his tenure no significant environmental events occurred. Significant events would include those affecting the community or in which emissions exceeded government standards, he said.

"I would like to include a thank you to the Metro Fire Department for their support during this incident," he said. "... We feel we worked together as a team to alleviate this incident."

Publication date: 2000-05-04 ) 2000, YellowBrix, Inc.


-- (, May 05, 2000

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