CSB Continues Investigation of Massachusetts Chemical Plant Explosion: Statement of Lead Investigator John Vorderbrueggen

December 1, 2006

CSB Investigator-in-Charge John Vorderbrueggen, PE, issued the following factual update to the investigation of the Danvers, Massachusetts, chemical plant explosion on November 22, 2006:

Today, 11 CSB investigators were in Danvers, including CSB Investigation Manager Stephen Selk, P.E., P.Eng., an expert in accident and blast reconstruction, who met with CSB blast modeling specialists and other team members.

Since gaining access to the site on November 28, 2006, CSB investigators have completed three entries into the explosion site for close observation and photography of the equipment, structure, and debris.

Two three-member teams of investigators have worked in the surrounding community interviewing residents and documenting structural damage. The data will be used in an effort to calculate the nature of the shockwave that caused damage to scores of homes and businesses. The work in the community is expected to be completed today.

Investigators have interviewed key employees from Arnel Co., and remaining interviews will be conducted over the next several days. Interviews with CAI employees are expected to begin Monday morning.

CSB investigators will continue to work through the weekend as the investigation continues. On Saturday, investigators will "walk down" the process equipment among the plant remnants with key operating employees of both companies, seeking to understand the process activities that were underway preceding the early morning explosion.

On Monday, investigators plan to draw samples from underground storage tanks where the bulk raw materials were stored. Those samples will be sent for laboratory analysis.

After conferring with the CSB blast modeling experts, Mr. Vorderbrueggen said, "This was a powerful explosion, even compared to other significant chemical accidents. More than 30 windows were broken at a high school one half-mile from the explosion origin. Our initial assessment shows that under slightly different circumstances -- for example if people had been outdoors instead of asleep in their homes -- it is likely that public fatalities could have occurred."

The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in safety regulations, industry standards, and management systems.

The Board does not issue citations or fines but does make safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups, and government agencies. Visit our website, www.CSB.gov.

For more information, contact Daniel Horowitz at (202) 261-7613 / (202) 441-6074 cell.

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