Officials from pharmaceutical manufacturer Seqens and the city of Newburyport, Massachusetts are waiting for insurance adjusters to show up before beginning demolition and cleanup of the Seqens facility where a worker died in an explosion last week.
The city gave Seqens, also known as PCI Synthesis, a deadline of 8 a.m. Wednesday to begin the demolition of the additional building where the explosion occurred. The city plans to turn the site over to a private contractor hired by Seqens.
A Seqens spokesperson said Journal of Insurance he had no official update as of noon on Tuesday regarding the arrival of the adjusters and the start of the demolition.
According to Newburyport Fire Chief Stephen H. Bradbury III, hazardous materials technicians and crews were on scene at the city’s business park Monday, removing the last eight 55-gallon drums of chemicals, and drained approximately 2,000 gallons of chemicals from the plant’s chemical reactors.
Bradbury said his crew temporarily halted work at the site Monday after high winds caused the metal addition walls to shift. A contractor was brought in to strengthen the steel support to replace the crane that has been holding up the building since last Friday.
Around 12:45 a.m. last Thursday, 911 operators received a report of an explosion at 9 Opportunity Way. Firefighters battled the intense fire conditions for approximately one hour. Five workers were in the building at the time, and four evacuated safely. The body of the missing worker identified as Jack O’Keefe, 62 years old, was found on Thursday afternoon. The other four workers were treated at a local hospital and released.
Officials said that while the explosion appears to be related to a chemical manufacturing process and does not appear to be suspicious, the exact cause remains under investigation by the Newburyport Fire Department, State Police, and the Essex County District Attorney’s office. .
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also have a bee on site.
The tragedy raises questions about the future of the plant, which has a history of health, safety and environmental problems. This explosion is the third at the plant since 2020. It moved to the Newburyport plant in 2005 from a facility in Leominster, where there were two explosions.
Newburyport Mayor Sean Reardon told the Newburyport Daily News that he wants the plant closed until a full investigation is completed. He questioned whether it would be allowed to reopen.
Some questioned why the plant was allowed to continue operating given its history.
“Why are we allowing companies to continue operating knowing that there is a laundry list of these types of concerns that have already been brought to their attention?” Al Vega, chief of strategy for the Massachusetts Coalition For Occupational Safety And Health (MassCOSH), asked WBUR radio. MassCOSH is a coalition representing workers.
Senators Edward J. Markey and Elizabeth Warren and Representative Seth Moulton wrote to Seqens North America, the owner of the facility, demanding an explanation “why this latest incident happened and how, after years of fines and regulatory enforcement actions, Seqens may be deemed unsafe. conditions to continue.”
The company has promised to cooperate with all investigations.
“We strive to follow best practices and regulatory guidelines and implement safety protocols and procedures to prevent incidents like this from occurring,” the company said in a statement, adding that it “Fully committed to working closely with the authorities and relevant agencies to determine the cause of the incident.
Photo: Crews at the scene of a hazardous materials explosion in Newburyport, Mass. on May 4, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Newburyport Fire)
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