Agency continues probe into explosion

March 26, 2007|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN - The Maryland Occupational Safety and Health agency is investigating the explosion that tore a hole in the roof of a building at a City of Hagerstown wastewater treatment plant.

Since the explosion March 13, city officials say some operations have resumed at the building where a private company turned sewage into fertilizer.

Donald Barton, wastewater operations manager for the City of Hagerstown, said Sunday that Synagro, which works under contract with the city, now presses sludge before sending it on to the landfill.

Before the explosion, the company turned sewage into fertilizer, but some of the machinery used in that process was damaged, Barton said. Investigations into the explosions are continuing, he said.


"Right now, there's no heat in the process at all," Barton said.

Linda Sherman, communications director for the state department of labor, licensing and regulation, said Wednesday the state's safety and health office is investigating the explosion, but she did not know who reported the incident.

"We are generally called into a company if there's an incident. That's our job - health and safety," Sherman said.

Mike Spiker, director of utilities for the City of Hagerstown, said at the scene that one man sustained minor injuries but declined treatment after the explosion. Hagerstown Fire Marshal Tom Brown said he did not know whether the explosions were related to three fires in two days that had broken out in a drying drum at the facility just before the explosion.

Brown was not available for comment last week, a Hagerstown Fire Department firefighter said.

In an e-mail Thursday, Spiker said Synagro has been processing sludge since March 17.

"The building has been repaired and Synagro is in the process of replacing the damaged equipment so that they may assume normal operations, hopefully by the end on the month," Spiker wrote. The company was assuming responsibility for the costs, the e-mail said.

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