MO Plant Blast Cause: Molten Aluminum

Friday, August 7, 2015 @ 04:08 PM gHale

Molten aluminum hitting water caused explosions that injured 33 employees at a southeast Missouri aluminum plant, federal officials said Wednesday.

The explosions occurred Tuesday at the Noranda Aluminum plant in Marston, MO, in New Madrid County, about 170 miles south of St. Louis.

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Preliminary findings suggest molten aluminum came into contact with water, causing the explosions, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is investigating the blast.

OSHA said 33 workers were hurt, but Noranda spokesman John Parker said none of the injuries were critical. One worker ended up treated for smoke inhalation and 32 for eye and throat irritation, OSHA said. Some also had ringing in the ears.

Parker said the explosions occurred in the caste house, where the company produces extrusion billet, a length of metal with a cylindrical shape. OSHA said much of that building appeared destroyed, though other buildings remained undamaged.

“OSHA is on scene and will conduct a thorough investigation at Noranda Aluminum facility to see if any violations of safety procedures contributed to this tragic incident,” said David Keim, OSHA’s assistant area director in St. Louis.

It will be the second investigation at the plant in a little over a month. OSHA opened an investigation June 30 after the company reported a worker suffered second- and third-degree burns. That investigation is ongoing, said spokeswoman Rhonda Burke.

Noranda employs about 900 workers in New Madrid County, where the plant serves as the primary aluminum smelter for Franklin, Tennessee-based Noranda.