Archive for Sunday, July 16, 2000

Farmland continues assessment of blast

July 16, 2000

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The cause of Friday's explosion at the Farmland Industries Inc. plant remains a mystery this weekend, according to the plant's manager.

No one had been able to go into the plant's compressor building where the explosion occurred because of the risk of exposure to asbestos, plant manager Dick Lind said Saturday.

The asbestos will have to be removed, Lind said.

"I'm not sure what it looks like," he said. "It may be Monday before we have an assessment on it."

The plant, which produces nitrogen fertilizer, remains shut down. It will not be reactivated until the latest in a series of mishaps is solved and safety is assured, Lind said.

No one was injured in the blast, which was felt throughout the surrounding neighborhood. The resulting fire was contained and allowed to burn itself out.

A smaller explosion occurred in the compressor room July 7 during a series of malfunctions. Attempts have been ongoing since to restart the compressor systems. A restart was in process Friday when the explosion occurred, Lind has said.

The series of incidents is frustrating, according to Lind.

"We've operated this plant for a number of years without problems," he said. "We are going to get to the bottom of this. We want to make sure it is safe for the employees and for the people living around us. We will determine what the problem is."

Union leaders also are concerned, according to Fred Thorne, president of Local 5-0613 of the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers Union.

"We have not had the input that we used to have concerning safety issues," Thorne said.

According to Thorne, the union is working under an agreement with Farmland but not a firm contract. Contract talks are under way, he said.

Thorne said he had been informed, however, that he will be allowed to take part in Farmland's investigation of the plant's mishaps.

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