Gas Meter in US Fatal Explosion to be Tested
May 13, 2010
According to the Associated Press, a Connecticut judge ordered police to let a federal safety board examine a battered gas detection meter salvaged from the site of a power plant explosion that killed six workers. The unit, the equivalent of an airliner''s black box, was at the center of a dispute over which agencies could test its data microchip and whether civil lawsuits and a potential criminal case could be jeopardized if its whereabouts weren''t tightly controlled. Middletown Superior Court Judge Robert Holzberg''s order requires the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board to keep detailed records of who handles the unit and its data chip, what tests are conducted and how tampering will be prevented. Then, the meter must be returned to Middletown police, who are working with state police to determine whether any individuals or entities should face criminal charges in the Kleen Energy Systems plant explosion on Feb. 7. All sides agreed to the terms after hours of discussions. The chemical safety board — along with police, prosecutors, corporate lawyers and attorneys for several workers — wants to know whether the combustible gas detector''s data chip recorded gas levels, alarms and other information before the deadly explosion at the Middletown plant. The explosion occurred as employees for O&G Industries Inc. cleaned pipes in a procedure known as a gas blow, in which high levels of gas are forced through pipes to clear any debris. Some workers have said they noticed an unusually strong smell just before the blast, which was heard and felt for miles around the under-construction 620-megawatt power plant. The chemical safety board, which criticizes gas blows as inherently unsafe, wants to examine the meter as part of recommendations it''s drafting to urge companies to find other ways to clean industrial plant pipes.