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Response to disaster

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November 18, 2007

Nov. 22, 2006, 2:46 a.m.
The CAI and Arnel building on Water Street explodes. The blast could be felt for miles, and registered a magnitude 0.5 earthquake at Boston College's Weston Observatory. Some 30 communities respond with help, along with state and federal officials.

Nov. 23
Thanksgiving Day - The fire out, public safety crews monitor the site. Residents of the New England Homes for the Deaf celebrate at a former Beverly nursing home, where most would live for the next two months.

Nov. 24
State and federal emergency management agencies and representatives of US Small Business Administration arrive at Town Hall to advise residents of financial help, such as low-cost loans, to help pay for housing and other expenses while displaced from homes or businesses. The US Chemical Safety Board arrives to investigate.

Nov. 27
Some residents of Bates and Riverside streets whose houses have been deemed safe start to return home.

Nov. 29, 4:20 p.m.
"All out" signal is sounded by Danvers Fire Department, signifying the end of the job. Investigators rule out arson as a possible cause. Some 7,500 gallons of toluene, acetate, and butyl acetate are removed from the 2-acre site. About 450 metal drums - each holding 55 gallons - filled with solid chemicals also are removed.

Jan. 22, 2007
Residents return to New England Homes for the Deaf on Water Street; its new $8 million building was severely damaged.

Jan. 30
Jan R. Schlichtmann, the Beverly environmental lawyer made famous by the book and movie "A Civil Action," addresses residents who have formed a new neighborhood group called SAFE, an acronym for Safe Area for Everyone. He agrees to provide them with counsel as they seek financial compensation from whatever party is found responsible for the blast.

Feb. 8
The Environmental Protection Agency completes the emergency removal of chemical and hazardous waste materials and debris from the explosion site. In total, 650 drums of liquid and solid chemicals, 18,000 gallons of liquid chemicals, and 7,500 gallons of flammable liquid kept in underground storage tanks was removed. Estimated cleanup costs are $1.3 million.

April 13
CAI files a lawsuit in Essex Superior Court, challenging the $312,000 bill from the state to pay for costs associated with the emergency response to the blast.

May 1
CAI renews its flammable storage license to store chemicals on the plant property.

May 5
Alan and Andrea Farrell of 8 Bates St. are the first of 23 owners whose homes had to be demolished to move into a new house.

May 7
State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan says the preliminary investigation showed a buildup of chemical vapors inside the plant caused the blast. Coan announces the new Safe Neighborhoods Chemical Initiative, a statewide plan to inspect small chemical and hazardous waste plants.

May 9
The Chemical Safety Board releases its preliminary findings, stating the buildup of chemicals caused the blast, but an ignition source is not known.

June 11
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration, a federal agency, fines CAI and Arnel $32,100 for 23 violations that could have resulted in death or harm to workers.

July 17
Danvers Board of Selectmen votes to accept the letters from CAI and Arnel withdrawing their flammable materials licenses without any admission of liability for the blast.

Aug. 27
CAI's case challenging the $312,000 bill from the state to pay for costs associated with the emergency response was dismissed at CAI's request. The company waived its right to appeal.

Oct. 16
SAFE asks the Board of Selectmen to establish the Danvers Hazardous Material Safety Board, an advisory panel that would review the storage of hazardous materials in town. Selectmen take the matter under advisement.

Nov. 7
Danvers Fire Department receives a special Fire Marshal's Award at the 18th Annual Firefighter of the Year Awards ceremony in Boston. Chief James Tutko, Deputy Chief Kevin Farrell, and Captain Douglas Conrad share the Firefighter's Award for Excellence in Leadership.

Nov. 14
The Danvers Community Council - which received $600,000 in private money to assist blast victims - holds a Thanksgiving Gathering for the residents of Danversport to commemorate the anniversary of the blast.

Nov. 15
The Chemical Safety Board announces it has completed testing chemicals involved in the explosion, confirming that a volatile mixture of flammable hepatane and alcohol solvents overheated in a mixing tank, releasing vapor that filled the building and ignited. The board also cited gaps in the state fire code that did not require that the tank have safety devices to prevent overheating. A final report will be issued in April.

Compiled by Kathy McCabe from Globe archives, court records

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