Saturday, 2:15 PM
State: boiler in Salem explosion should have been thoroughly inspected
(Department of Public Safety)
An illustration from the report shows the position of the three men at the base of the gigantic boiler. The area in blue is the dead air space. The area in red is where the tubes burst.
By Globe Staff
A state investigation into the November 2007 boiler explosion at the Salem Harbor power generating station that killed three plant workers has found that the cause was a defective weld combined with significant external corrosion of tubes in part of the boiler known as the dead air space.
The accident began when one tube sprayed water and steam onto adjacent tubes. A catastrophic failure resulted, sending steam, water, and ash at approximately 600 degrees into the area below the boiler, the Department of Public Safety said today in a statement as it issued its report on the probe.
The law requires a thorough internal and external inspection of the boiler, including the dead air space, the DPS said. Investigators were told that the space may not have been opened in at least 10 years.
The report found that an annual inspection of the space would have "significantly abated the degree of corrosion in the space and observation of the current level of corrosion should have prompted further examination."
The department said it would pursue disciplinary actions against the engineer-in-charge of the boiler as well as the insurance inspector responsible for annual inspections.
Federal safety officials found several violations at the plant in May, but Dominion Energy New England officials said it planned to contest the accusations that it did not keep its workers safe.
The Nov. 6, 2007 accident killed engineer Phillip Robinson, mechanic Mark Mansfield, and worker Matthew Indeglia after they were enveloped in a cloud of super-hot steam.
"We are disappointed with the report and believe that it does not reflect the evidence. While we will continue to review the report and consider our options to respond, we strongly disagree with any suggestion that Dominion or our dedicated employees at Salem Harbor did not maintain a safe work environment or failed to operate and maintain our power generating facilities properly," Jim Norvelle, a Dominion spokesman, said in a statement.