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Friday, September 23, 2016 @ 12:09 PM gHale

An explosion likely caused by fish-meal dust caused major damage to a Dutch Harbor, Alaska, seafood processing plant Monday night, officials said.

The blast occurred inside the Westward Seafoods Inc. plant on Captains Bay Road at about 6:45 p.m. Monday, said Mike Holman, director of Unalaska’s Department of Public Safety. Thirteen members of the department responded.

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There were employees inside the building at the time of the explosion, but no one suffered an injury. Westward Seafoods President Mark Johanson confirmed employees were in the facility, which he described as mostly “one large open space,” but were not injured.

The blast likely occurred when an undetermined ignition source detonated dust from the production of fish meal, often used as feed for other fish, Holman said.

Johanson said the exact cause of the blast was still undetermined, though fish-meal dust was among the possible culprits. He declined to mention other possible causes.

“I don’t want to speculate at this point,” Johanson said. “We’ll do our investigation and obviously we’ll learn from it.”

Johanson said the fish-meal plant remained closed for the time being, due to the extent of the damage.

“There’s quite a bit of damage inside the building — some of the pipes erupted, and one of the doors was blown off its hinges into a container,” Holman said.

Holman said no foul play is currently suspected in the blast, which is also being investigated by the state fire marshal. The plant’s sprinkler system extinguished the resulting fire before crews arrived but contributed to damage estimates well beyond the $100,000 first reported after the fire.

“It sounds like the sprinklers, when they went off, they dumped a lot of water on all the electrical equipment,” Holman said.

Johanson said pollock season was wrapping up and the fish-meal plant isn’t needed in any current fishery openings. The company was optimistic the plant will be fully operational in time for another pollock season in January, he said.

Holman said he has seen two fish-meal dust explosions at Dutch Harbor plants during his 21 years with the department, but those blasts hadn’t been as costly as the one Monday.

The incident remained under investigation.

Monday, September 19, 2016 @ 04:09 PM gHale

Workers evacuated a major snack maker in Madison Heights, MI, Thursday night after a fire raged inside the plant, officials said.

Over 60 workers evacuated from the Kars Nuts plant at 7:30 pm, after flames broke out in a room where they wash products.

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Firefighters had to clear heavy smoke from the plant, before they could assess the damage. The factory employs 200 workers.

Five fire departments were on hand to help out.

About 200 employees work there on three different shifts, but it’s unclear how long operations will be suspended by last night’s fire.

A statement from the company says all of the equipment is in working order, and production is expected to resume early next week.

“Our full workforce is here today and will be through the weekend cleaning all of our equipment, just to ensure it is completely safe before resuming production,” the statement said. “We are working closely with health officials to ensure compliance every step of the way. The safety and quality of our products is our highest priority.”

A cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016 @ 08:09 AM gHale

Partial production resumed Wednesday at the Smithfield Foods processing plant in Monmouth, IL, which shut down after a fire last Monday, officials said.

The fire was called in at 5:09 p.m.  Crews from nine departments worked to bring fire under control by 7:30 p.m., though Monmouth Fire Chief Casey Rexroat said firefighters had to extinguish flare-ups throughout the night.

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Rexroat said it’s believed the fire started in a rendering area in the north part of the plant, though it’s not yet known how it started. The extent of the damage is still being determined. Over 1,600 people work at the plant.

Rexroat said one firefighter ended up treated and released at the hospital for heat exhaustion. There were no other injuries reported and all of Smithfield’s employees are accounted for. Due to the Labor Day holiday, only about a dozen workers were in the plant when the fire started.

Joseph Hathaway, a worker at the plant, waited out the fire with co-workers at a muster point outside the plant.

“All we saw was a bunch of black smoke when we were evacuated out. We had a couple people come in, tell us there was a fire, and they escorted us out rather quickly,” Hathaway said.

The neighboring Cloverleaf Cold Storage facility also evacuated during the fire. City Administrator Lowell Crow said that was done as a precaution because a flash freezing tunnel connects Smithfield and Cloverleaf. He said there was a risk of an ammonia cloud forming if the flames reached the tunnel.

The nearby Prairie Point apartment complex was also evacuated as a safety precaution but those residents were allowed to return to their homes Monday night.

Crow hoped to learn soon when work can resume at the Smithfield plant. He said the business is important to the community’s economy.  

“That plant does employ a little over 1,600 people, which affects the community as a whole. Additionally, they are one of our largest users of water and sewer, and that’s an additional revenue source,” Crow said.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016 @ 02:09 PM gHale

A pump controller failed during Tropical Storm Hermine resulting in 125,000 gallons of partially treated wastewater leaking in Havelock, NC, Friday.

The leak occurred at 11 p.m. on Friday night. City officials said heavy rains during Hermine caused high flow rates, which eventually led to the pump controller failing.

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The wastewater entered into Slocum Creek near the treatment plant.

Workers reset the pump controller to prevent any further discharge.

Monday, August 29, 2016 @ 04:08 PM gHale

A CenterPoint Energy substation fire and explosion in northwest Harris County cut power to approximately 75,000 customers.

Authorities got the call just after 5 p.m. last Tuesday in Cypress, TX. As the fire became larger, those in the area heard one explosion and then another.

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Concerned about air quality because of the billowing smoke, officials called for a shelter-in-place and nearby Hamilton Middle School evacuated. For a period of time, firefighters watched the transformer burn as the initial 10,000 affected customers turned into 75,000.

“There was a large transformer that faulted and caught fire. Exactly how that happened, whether it will be an overload or something like that, we’re going to work with them (CenterPoint) to get that information,” said Capt. Dean Hensley, with the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office.

No one suffered an injury in the incident. The shelter-in-place lifted after the fire burned for three hours.

Crews worked through the night to reroute power and restore service.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 @ 12:08 PM gHale

An open valve in a containment tank led to a sulfuric acid spill in Mulberry Fork in Alabama, officials said.

Just about 900 gallons of sulfuric acid mixed with stormwater and released into the Mulberry Fork Wednesday at the American Proteins chicken rendering plant in Hanceville, AL.

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While an investigation is ongoing, Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) spokesman Jerome Hand said they believe they know how the spill happened.

“The release occurred when a supply line from one of their outside storage tanks leaked into, basically a tank containment system, and that failed because it had an open valve,” Hand said. “It’s early in the investigation, and I hate to say it was a one-time thing, but we think we know the reason.

“It’s still under investigation, that’s just what we’ve found out so far. We’ll continue to look into all aspects of the spill.”

Hand said the release happened around 4 p.m. Wednesday and the department received notification by American Proteins at 5:51 p.m. He said ADEM contacted the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which was investigating the effects on wildlife.

“We were out there that night taking samples and we’re still waiting for the results from the lab on those, so it’s still under investigation,” Hand said.

The Mulberry Fork and the Locust Fork converge to form the Black Warrior River at the Bankhead Reservoir.

The plant’s general manager Jason Spann told the Cullman Times newspaper the spilled material contained about 150 gallons of sulfuric acid, mixed with about 750 gallons of storm water.

He said the company was cooperating with ADEM and other state agencies in the investigation and would take steps to “ensure that this type of spill does not occur in the future.”

American Proteins is a poultry processing plant, rendering offal, organs or other parts of the chicken not desired for human consumption into pet food and high-protein livestock feed.

American Proteins is the largest such operation in the world and its 600-acre Hanceville plant employs 230 people and can process 36 million pounds of offal per week.

The release of that much sulfuric acid into a flowing river is very uncommon and leaves state agencies and environmental groups somewhat out of their element in determining the next steps.

“This is the first time I’ve heard of a spill of this since I’ve been at ADEM,” Hand said. “We’re concerned any time something gets in the water that shouldn’t.”

Hand referred questions about potential sulfuric acid health effects to the Alabama Department of Public Health.

According to a Centers for Disease Control fact sheet, sulfuric acid is highly corrosive to skin and eyes and can cause severe burns, blisters, redness or pain. The recommended treatment for exposure is to remove contaminated clothing, remove contact lenses in eyes, rinse skin thoroughly with clean water, and seek professional medical attention.

Sulfuric acid can also form harmful vapors during chemical reactions, though it’s unclear whether that is of concern in an outdoor environment. The CDC said sulfuric acid is harmful to aquatic organisms.

Monday, August 22, 2016 @ 04:08 PM gHale

After a malfunction in computer programming released 572,000 gallons of partially treated wastewater into the Kalamazoo River, the affected waterway is now clear of any issues.

The spill occurred from the city of Kalamazoo’s Water Reclamation Plant and hit a section of the Kalamazoo River. As a result of the Tuesday spill, a health advisory went into place immediately following the spill, but ended up canceled early Thursday afternoon.

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The city of Kalamazoo’s Department of Public Services sampled the river between the Paterson Street Bridge and the D Avenue Bridge, and the results went to the Kalamazoo, MI, County Health and Community Services Department. The county health department approved the cancellation of the advisory.

The spill was not raw sewage, but partially treated wastewater that had been at the plant for 18 to 20 hours and had gone through most of the treatment process.

Excessive amounts of rain Monday night and Tuesday raised the city Water Reclamation Plant’s daily flow level to more than 47 million gallons of water, up from a normal amount of 26 million gallons, plant workers said.

A sensor failed to alert a third pump to kick on because of the large amount of water flowing into the plant. Workers caught the error during a routine inspection of the plant.

Thursday, August 18, 2016 @ 04:08 PM gHale

Four workers ended up rushed to hospitals and three flown via helicopter suffering from burns after a flash fire at the Sunoco refinery in Jefferson County, TX, Friday night.

Part of the investigation into Friday night’s fire will review whether the contractors followed safety practices, said Jeff Shields, a Sunoco spokesman.

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The workers ended up injured while doing some welding at the terminal according to the Marcus McLellan of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office. Officials from the company have not yet released any comments about the flash fire and the conditions of the employees.

“There is now no danger to the area around the plant”, the sheriff’s office said.

According to the company that owned the marine terminal, Sunoco Logistics, it appeared to involve a crude-oil pipeline connection.

The Nederland plant stores crude oil and other natural gases, with a storage capacity of approximately 24 million crude oil barrels, according to Sunoco’s website.

Friday night, L-Con contractors were working on a pipeline connection inside Sunoco Logistics, when a flash fire started.

“Usually vapor or there could be a liquid, it burns really rapid real fast,” said Deputy Marcus McLellan with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. “There’s no more accelerant no more left to burn so it’s just real fast, real quick and usually extinguishes itself.”

That fire injured seven workers with four of them critically injured after suffering burns. Three workers have been released from the hospital, according to a company spokesperson.

“Working in refinery is a dangerous job,” said McLellan. “You have hazardous very volatile chemicals that your around every day. Whenever there is an incident it’s usually on the severe side.”

Thursday, August 18, 2016 @ 04:08 PM gHale

A shelter in place lifted after workers contained a sulfuric acid leak Saturday at the Honeywell Plant in Geismar, LA, Iberville Parish Sheriff officials said.

The all clear came for thousands to open their windows and turn their AC back on after certification both on-site and off-site, said officials at the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

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The shelter in place call ended up issued Saturday night for Geismar, the Carville area, the St. Gabriel area, and everything south of Hwy. 74 in Ascension Parish. This area included two prisons in St. Gabriel.

Highways 74 (closed from Elayn Hunt Correctional Center to 3115), Highway 3115, and Highway 30 (from truck stop in St. Gabriel to Hwy. 73 in Ascension Parish) and Hwy. 75 (River Road) are now open.

There were no injuries in the incident.

A spokesperson with Honeywell released the following statement Saturday:

“Honeywell’s Geismar facility experienced a leak of sulfuric acid this evening. The facility’s emergency response team is working to mitigate and stop the leak. The plant has instructed employees of the site and two neighboring sites to shelter in place as a precaution. The facility also notified state police of the incident as per plant procedure.”

The following day, a spokesman released another statement:

The sulfuric acid leak at the Honeywell Geismar plant was stopped at approximately 11 p.m. Saturday evening and the shelter in place for employees of the site and neighboring sites was lifted soon after. Louisiana DEQ officials were on-site during the incident and the plant is cooperating with the DEQ and local authorities. The plant is conducting a thorough investigation of incident.

Friday, August 12, 2016 @ 03:08 PM gHale
Toshiba launched four new models of its IKS-WD6123 3MP mini-dome IP camera line.

Toshiba launched four new models of its IKS-WD6123 3MP mini-dome IP camera line.

Toshiba has four new models of its IKS-WD6123 3MP mini-dome IP camera line.

The new cameras use different focal lengths — 2.3mm, 3.6mm, 6mm and 12mm — to enable a wider variety of surveillance solutions requiring HD quality pictures at minimal bandwidth, ranging from super wide angle for large areas to telephoto angle for longer distance viewing.

With a profile height of only two inches, IKS-WD6123 Series cameras deliver video surveillance coverage without the overt appearance of larger cameras. The 3-axis angle adjustment permits fast mounting on walls or ceilings by automatically adjusting the factory-focused fixed lens to maintain a level image, reducing the time and cost of installations.

Each camera offers quad video streams individually configured using H.264 or MJPEG compression for live viewing or archiving. Different areas of the same scene can end up simultaneously viewed or recorded at resolutions as high as 2048 x 1536 by a single camera to help minimize bit rate and storage needs.

For improved visibility in variable lighting conditions, the cameras boast electronic day/night imaging, True Wide Dynamic Range, and a minimum illumination range down to 0.01 lux.