Investigator Calls for Safer Release of Gases Following Deadly Plant Explosion

John Parra/Telemundo

A federal investigator speaking before a legislative hearing on the deadly Middletown power plant explosion says safer alternatives will be recommended for releasing hazardous gases.

Donald Holmstrom, an investigations supervisor with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, is appearing before the Joint Committee on Energy and Technology.

Workers at the Kleen Energy Systems plant in Middletown were using natural gas to clean out the lines when the explosion happened on Feb. 7.  Six people were killed and 20 were injured.

Officials investigating the blast found that there was a massive gas buildup and many ignition sources nearby, but it is still unclear exactly how the explosion happened.  Holmstrom said gas and venting issues have become a major safety concern at the agency.

The Chemical Safety Board issued new safety proposals on pipe purging just a week before the blast.

The meeting comes as lawyers for some of the victims of the blast are seeking a court order to preserve evidence at the Kleen Energy plant. Attorneys filed paperwork in court in Middletown on Monday.

"They have to protect the evidence because the civil Plaintiffs have rights here to examine that evidence and possibly do testing on that evidence before it can be altered in any way," Robert Reardon, a victim's attorney, told NBC Connecticut.

Lawyers are concerned that O&G, the general contractor, and Kleen Energy, the plant's owner, may alter the site, causing critical evidence to be damaged, destroyed or made unavailable.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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