Six weeks have passed now since the horrific Imperial Sugar Refinery combustible dust explosion that occurred in Port Wentworth, Georgia on the evening of February 7. Imperial Sugar CEO John Sheptor allowed reporters an up close view of the blast site while investigators took a break during the Easter weekend.
Today News Threes Alice Massimi and photojournalist Art Ottimo were able to get a close-up look at the destruction caused by this horrific incident.Combustible dust explosions and fires are a regular occurrence at numerous manufacturing and processing facilities across the United States and the Imperial Sugar incident is not an isolated case. Already 20 combustible dust related fires and explosion have occurred since the explosion in Port Wentworth.
3/18/08 MUSKEGON COUNTY Muskegon firefighters responded at 1:52 a.m. to the plant at 1867 Huizenga, where they discovered the plant's "dust collector" had caught fire, said Fire Marshall Major Metcalf. It's unclear why the device -- located outside the plant -- malfunctioned
Combustible dust fires originating in dust collectors occur with regularity and without proper voluntary detection, isolation, ventilation, and suppression measures in conjunction with the regulatory good housekeeping requirements additional incidents, will continue.
Just abiding by current combustible dust industry standards and OSHA regulations is not enough as Imperial Sugar CEO John Sheptor suggests, with all good intentions
PORT WENTWORTH, GA (WTOC) 3/21/08 - "We will rebuild this facility to the best knowledge we have with regard to the management of combustible dust, whether that be a regulation or industrial standard and by all means we believe we were operating according to these codes and standards previously," he said.
Rebuilding the sugar plant in compliance to current OSHA combustibles dust regulations will only prolong the situation of the continual occurrence of more combustible dust explosions.Especially since abiding to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)codes on combustible dust is only voluntary.
At a recent congressional hearing of the House Committee of Education and Labor concerning the introduction of the Combustible Dust Explosion and Fire Prevention Act (H.R. 5522), David Sarvadi a lobbyist and attorney representing United States Chamber of Commerce the world's nationwide largest not-for-profit business federation, of 3,000,000 businesses, didn't believe that a mandatory OSHA combustible dust standard, which includes NFPA combustible dust explosion preventative and mitigative measures was a good idea.
Meanwhile combustible dust explosions are still occuring
3/13/08 By TOM QUIGLEY The Express-Times HIGH BRIDGE,NJ Fire erupted Wednesday inside an enclosed dust collector in a metal-grinding room at the Custom Alloy plant on Washington Avenue, borough Fire Chief Jeffrey Smith said.
The severity of the situation is not just solely on the protection of workers in the workplace from the unknown dangers of seemingly harmless combustible particulate solids and the combustible dusts that are generated. But now our nation's firefighters are at risk when fighting a structure fires where unrecognized combustible dusts are generated and primary and secondary dust explosions can occur during the deflagration event.
And so the saga continues:
3/10/08 WCCO.com OAK PARK HEIGHTS, Minn. (AP) ― Xcel Energy is shutting down its King plant in Oak Park Heights after a fire and possible explosion in a building near the coal-fired plant.This was the second combustible dust explosion of coal dust within three months at the same facility. Currently, Minnesota is under a voluntary state OSHA program and doesn't even have an emphasis program regarding combustible dusts. So how is it that future preventable and predictable combustible dust explosions and fires can be diminished if there is no nationwide mandatory protective standards?
NFPA 654: Standard for the Prevention of Fire and Dust Explosions from the Manufacturing, Processing, and Handling of Combustible Particulate Solids