WNPR

One Year After Middletown Explosion, No National Safety Requirements

Feb 4, 2011

One year ago this Sunday, an explosion at a billion dollar power plant project in Middletown took the lives of six men and injured more than 40 people. There are still no national safety requirements to prevent incidents like this in the future It was the morning of Superbowl Sunday a year ago. Pipefitters and carpenters at the Kleen Energy power plant site were conducting a common procedure... cleaning debris from pipes that would feed natural gas to the turbines. Michael Rosario, of the Pipefitters Union was at home, nearby.

"I heard a loud bang. I looked out the window, and saw a big cloud of smoke and I knew something seriously went wrong."

Federal investigators would later discover that enough gas to fill a pro-basketball arena from floor to ceiling, was blown under high pressure, through the pipes, to clean them. The gas was vented into a confined area outside and did not disperse. Nearby, men were welding and using heaters to keep warm. The gas found an ignition source and blew up. U.S. Chemical Safety Board Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso says the accident was preventable. "The process of using combustible gas for gas blows should be forbidden and that is the recommendation we made, for example, to the state of Connecticut." Instead the CSB suggests using air, nitrogen or a mechanical device to clean the pipes. Connecticut adopted the recommendations in September. OSHA is recommending the new procedures, but it doesn’t require them. OSHA also proposed more than $16 million in penalties against the construction companies, but the Torrington-based O & G industries is contesting the alleged violations. The Kleen Energy plant is back under construction and is operating under the new state rules designed to prevent future tragedy. For WNPR, I’m Nancy Cohen. A memorial mass for the men who died will be held at the St Sebastian Church in Middletown on Sunday morning.