Saturday, 2:15 PM
Federal report: Danvers 2006 explosion could have been prevented
(David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/file/2006)
By John R. Ellement, Globe Staff
DANVERS -- The 2006 Danversport factory explosion that destroyed a neighborhood here could have been prevented if one company involved had better safeguards inside its facility, according to a US Chemical Safety Board report released today.
Federal investigators noted in a draft of their final report that the explosion highlighted gaps in state and federal safety regulations that must be fixed to prevent future catastrophes. The Nov. 22 detonation at ink maker CAI Inc. has been called a Thanksgiving miracle because no one was killed or seriously injured.
William Wright, a safety board member, said that CAI should have had an alarm and automated safeguards to prevent explosions, as opposed to its manual operation that left it vulnerable to the mistakes of employees.
"We found an underlying cause was CAI's failure to conduct a hazard analysis or other systematic review to ensure flammable liquids were safely handled during the manufacturing process,'' Wright said in a written statement. "Without safeguards, it is likely that a small but foreseeable human error led to disaster.''
The safety board also released an 11-minute video today that includes actual footage of the fire; audio recordings of 911 calls; computer simulations of the explosion; interviews with local residents; and a step-by-step reenactment of what caused the blast. To watch the video, click here.
The safety board will discuss its findings and recommendations at a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the Sheraton Ferncroft Resort in Danvers. At the meeting, the board will vote whether to formally adopt the report as its final say on the 2006 explosion.
W. Paul Needham, the attorney for CAI, said today that a company investigation that relies on computer modeling of the blast reached a completely different conclusion.
“The studies show it could not have happened the way the CSB says,” Needham said. He refused to provide specifics, citing the ongoing litigation between CAI and affected property owners and insurance carriers in the neighborhood.
The plant was jointly operated by CAI Inc. and specialty paint maker Arnel, Inc. The safety board singled out CAI for causing the explosion because a worker turned off the ventilation system while a vat of volatile chemicals was being heated. Needham said the CAI employee identified by federal investigators is adamant that he turned off the heat when he left the building at the end of his shift.
The safety board determined that explosive vapors collected inside the Water Street building and detonated at 2:46 a.m. The blast destroyed 16 homes and three businesses and forced the evacuation of 300 people.
State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan proposed legislation earlier this year to add chemical manufacturing inspectors to his department and to train local fire departments on how to properly inspect companies that use chemicals in their plants.
This blogger might want to review your comment before posting it.