Chemical Tank Explosion in Barbour County Kills Two Employees Plus One Severely Injured

by Duane Nichols on May 26, 2017

Midland Resource Recovery chemical operations in WV

Chemical Safety Board launches probe of fatal Barbour County explosion

From an Article by Ken Ward, Jr., Charleston Gazette-Mail, May 25, 2017

Even as President Donald Trump tries to defund the small agency, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board announced Thursday it was sending a team of investigators to Barbour County to look into the explosion a day earlier that killed two workers and critically injured a third at an industrial tank cleaning operation outside of Philippi.

CSB officials announced the deployment, as local, state and other federal authorities continued the investigation of the fatal blast at Midland Resource Recovery’s facility.

Killed in the explosion were Jan Strmen, an owner of the Canadian-based Midland Resource Recovery, and Justin Marsh, a 19-year-old Barbour County resident, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. the injured worker was also identified as a Barbour County resident, but his name was not released by local officials.

Details on the condition of the injured worker, who was flown to West Virginia University’s Ruby Memorial Hospital, were not available, but Barbour County Chief Deputy Brett Carpenter said the man was previously listed in critical condition and had “pretty substantial injuries.”

Carpenter said that all three men were involved in cleaning a mercaptan tank when the explosion occurred and also revealed that authorities suspect that some sort of electrical tool may have been involved in the blast.

Mercaptan is most commonly thought of as the rotten egg-smelling chemical that is added to odorless natural gas for safety purposes, so that leaks can easily be noticed. Products like mercaptan are known as odorants. Midland Resource Recovery bills itself as “the leading natural gas odorization company in North America.” The company has not responded to numerous requests for comment on the explosion.

Carpenter said that authorities are hoping to be able to talk to the injured worker at some point, but that Barbour County officials are turning the investigation over to the state Fire Marshal’s office.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration is also investigating and has agency officials at the site.

Leni Uddyback-Fortson, an OSHA spokeswoman, said that the Midland Resource Recovery facility brings in old odorant tanks from gas companies and cleans and decommissions them. She confirmed that the owner of the facility was one of the two fatalities.

Over the years, the CSB has been praised by citizen groups and others for investigations into other fatal chemical leaks, fires and explosions in West Virginia, but has recently been criticized for the lack of regulatory recommendations and other weaknesses in its report on the January 2014 Freedom Industries chemical spill on the Elk River.

The CSB’s deployment to Barbour County also comes as President Donald Trump submitted a budget proposal to Congress that suggests doing away with the board. The Trump administration says closing down the board — with its $11 million annual budget and just 43 employees — is part of its effort “to move the nation towards fiscal responsibility and to redefine the proper role of the federal government.”

Trump’s effort to gut the eliminate the CSB follows a rocky period in which then-President Obama in March 2015 pushed out then-CSB Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso amid industry criticism of board proposals for tougher regulation of chemical plants and Republican-led hearings that focused on complaints Moure-Eraso had created a “toxic work environment” at the CSB.

As an independent agency, the CSB’s new leadership this week submitted its own budget proposal, which asks lawmakers for a nearly 6 percent increase in funding.

“The continued funding of the CSB is an investment in the safety and security of the American people,” the CSB’s budget proposal says. “No other organizations, public or private, are able to conduct truly independent, non-regulatory investigations that can also hold federal and state regulators or other parties accountable.”

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U S NEWS -- St. Louis May 26, 2017 at 5:52 pm

Report: Huge Tank That Exploded Needed Emergency Repairs

Federal investigators say a giant steam-filled tank that exploded at a St. Louis box plant, flew a quarter-mile into the air and smashed into a neighboring building, was being used despite needing emergency repairs.

The Associated Press: File Photo — This April 3, 2017 file photo from video provided by KMOV shows damage to the roof of the Loy-Lange Box Co. in St. Louis after a steam condensation tank exploded and flew before crashing through the roof of a nearby laundry business. The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board released in findings Thursday, May 25, 2017, of its investigation into the explosion that killed several people.

By JIM SALTER, Associated Press

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A giant steam-filled tank weighing nearly 2,000 pounds (900 kilograms) that exploded at a St. Louis box plant, flew a quarter-mile into the air and smashed into a neighboring building, was being used despite needing emergency repairs, federal investigators said Thursday.

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board released findings of its investigation into the horrifying April 3 explosion at Loy-Lange Box Co. that left four people dead. The blast propelled the tank through Loy-Lange’s roof and into the offices of Faultless Healthcare Linen.

The steam condensation tank, used in the process of making corrugated packaging products, first sprung a leak in November 2012. The federal report said a contractor made emergency repairs and less than a month later recommended the replacement of lower portions of the tank.

The tank parts were never replaced, investigators said. They also found no evidence that the city ever inspected the tank. A city official said the tank was frequently inspected.

Engineers again noticed a leak on March 31 this year, a Friday, the report said. The steam generation system was shut down and a repair technician was scheduled to arrive the following Monday afternoon, April 3.

“On Monday, despite the leak and the pending technician visit, Loy-Lange started up the steam generation system,” the agency’s report said. ” … it appears that the catastrophic failure occurred near the end of the startup process.”

The failure was caused by corrosion of a 6-inch (15-centimeter) ring that was part of the tank, investigators said.

“The entire ring failed suddenly,” the report said. “The tank circle blew away in one piece from the (tank), creating the conditions for the steam explosion.” The result was a massive blast “equivalent to about 350 pounds (160 kilograms) of TNT” that “launched the storage tank like a rocket through the roof.”

The 1,952-pound, 17 1/2-foot-long (5-meter-long) tank rose to about 425 feet (130 meters) above street level and was airborne for more than 10 seconds before crashing through the roof at Faultless.

Loy-Lange engineer Kenneth Trentham, 59, died. At Faultless, Tonya Gonzalez-Suarez, 46, and her husband, Christopher Watkins, 43, were filling out paperwork for new jobs when they were killed. Clifford Lee, 53, also was fatally injured while filling out papers to begin work at Faultless.

The Loy-Lange Box Co. did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment Thursday.

Safety of things such as boilers and industrial water tanks are regulated almost uniformly in Missouri, with standards that generally include periodic inspections. But St. Louis is exempt from the Missouri law requiring regular inspections by either a state inspector or insurance company.

The city instead requires a company to have a licensed stationary engineer on site. Loy-Lange employed three stationary engineers assigned to the company’s two tanks.

“The city provided no evidence of inspection,” the federal report said.

But St. Louis Building Commissioner Frank Oswald said it was one of the stationary engineers charged with inspections who noticed the leak on March 31. That engineer, he said, had nothing to do with the decision to restart the system before repairs were made.

“Our position is indeed the system did work because they did notice it,” Oswald said.

The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board’s role is to investigate industrial chemical accidents. It is not authorized to issue citations or fines, but it can make safety recommendations. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration also is investigating the accident.



Lena Moffitt May 28, 2017 at 8:31 pm

One Dead, Three Injured in Anadarko Oil Tank Explosion

By Lena Moffitt,, May 26, 2017

An oil tanker in Mead, Colorado exploded, killing one and injuring three on Thursday. Authorities are continuing to investigate the cause of the explosion.

The death is the third fatality caused by Anadarko’s Colorado operations in just the past six weeks. On April 17, a home explosion in Firestone, Colorado was the result of an Anadarko oil well. In the days that followed, the company closed 3,000 of its wells across the area, disconnecting all one-inch lines and Gov. John Hickenlooper ordered a statewide review of oil and gas operations.

Anadarko announced Thursday that it was permanently closing the well that caused the disaster along with two others in the neighborhood.

The explosion in Mead is approximately four miles from the disaster in Firestone. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed and injured in yesterday’s disaster. One injury, one life lost, is one too many. Anadarko must immediately shutter all of its operations while state and federal authorities conduct a comprehensive review of its operations.

Anadarko, like so many fossil fuel companies across the country, have proven that it cannot be trusted to put its workers and the communities surrounding operations first, which is why we must expand—not shrink—federal oversight.

Lena Moffitt is Sierra Club’s “Wild America” director.



WBOY Update June 1, 2017 at 2:33 pm

Barbour County Explosion Update

UPDATE (5/31/17 at 5:15 p.m.):

A man who was injured in an explosion at Midland Resource Recovery in Barbour County is listed in fair condition as of Wednesday afternoon, according to hospital officials.

Rex Bennett, 55, was the third person cleaning the tank that exploded. He was previously in critical condition at Ruby Memorial Hospital.

UPDATE (5/30/17 at 10 a.m.):

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration has released the names of the two men killed in an explosion at Midland Resource Recovery on Wednesday, May 24.

The owner, Jan Strmen, 72, of Canada, and Justin Marsh, 19, of Barbour County, were killed in the explosion.

According to OSHA, Midland Resource Recovery brings in old odorant tanks from gas companies, then cleans and decommissions them. Strmen, Marsh, and a 55-year-old employee were reportedly in the process of decommissioning an odorant tank when the tank exploded.

The injured employee received serious injuries and was in critical condition at Ruby Memorial Hospital as of Friday, according to Barbour County deputies.

OSHA said it does not release the names of injured employees.

OSHA has six months to conduct an investigation, and release its findings.


Fort Collins (CO) June 5, 2017 at 11:07 am

Fort Collins oil, gas inspections planned after home explosion

Fort Collins’ lone oil and gas operator is planning state-mandated inspections of oil and gas gathering lines near a north Fort Collins subdivision after a fatal Weld County home explosion was found to be caused by a cut gas line.

The Firestone explosion, which killed two people and critically injured another April 17, inspired operator Anadarko Petroleum to temporarily shut down about 3,000 older vertical wells in northeast Colorado out of “an abundance of caution.”

Investigators revealed Tuesday that gas leaking from a cut gathering line attached to a nearby well triggered the home explosion. The announcement prompted Gov. John Hickenlooper to order statewide inspection and pressure testing of oil and gas gathering lines within 1,000 feet of occupied buildings.

Operators must identify all gathering lines near occupied buildings by the end of May and test them for integrity by the end of June. They’ll also have to identify any abandoned or unused gathering lines and ensure that they’re properly marked and capped or cut below the surface and sealed.

Prospect Energy, which operates 23 oil wells, 21 injection wells and an oil processing facility near the Hearthfire subdivision, has hired a firm to assist with its inspections, managing member Ward Giltner said Wednesday.

“It’ll be tight, but we’re planning on getting everything done according to (Hickenlooper’s) timeline,” Giltner said.

Residents of the Hearthfire neighborhood had mixed reactions to the Firestone explosion. Some said they weren’t worried because Prospect has been a good neighbor. Others said the news concerned them.

The Firestone explosion resulted from a perfect storm that is unlikely to be replicated in Fort Collins, Colorado State University civil and environmental engineering professor Ken Carlson said.

Fort Collins’ wells are different from the Firestone well that caused the explosion. They’re situated over a different geological formation called the Muddy Sandstone Unit, which is low-pressure and produces mostly water mixed with a little oil and a small amount of gas.



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