Federal and local authorities are investigating the cause of an industrial explosion at an Augusta, Georgia, chemical complex that killed one worker and injured two others Wednesday, Sept. 27.
According to The Augusta Chronicle, the deadly explosion occurred at the DSM Chemical plant, a unit of the Dutch multinational chemical manufacturer that produces powder-coat paint resins.
The explosion killed 29-year-old Steven Gonsalves of Beech Island, South Carolina. According to The Augusta Chronicle, Mr. Gonsalves was not an employee of DSM but he was in the plant performing welding work with the other workers who were injured.
A spokesperson for the city of Augusta told The Chronicle that the explosion stemmed from a “stationary liquid tank” that exploded as a result of the welding activity.
“We don’t know if they were actually welding on that specific tank that exploded or if they were welding near the tank,” Jody Smitherman, a senior staff attorney with the city’s law office told The Chronicle. “But we do know that heat and or spark from the welding is what caused the explosion.”
Ms. Smitherman added that they don’t know the exact contents of the tank that exploded but said it was a combination of wastewater and chemicals that formed a combustive mixture. She said that the DOT numbers on the tank informed first responders that the contents were flammable. “So to engage in welding activity around that material runs risk for explosion and or fire.”
The force of the explosion hurled Mr. Gonsalves 75 feet from the source of the blast. The two other workers were decontaminated for chemical exposure and hospitalized. Their names and conditions were not disclosed.
It’s not certain whether the welders knew the risks of the surroundings or were sent in without proper precautions. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is investigating whether any safety violations contributed to the deadly blast.
OSHA’s investigations can take up to six months to complete.