Louis official defends tank inspection

Factual Investigative Update” on the April 3, 2017, catastrophic rupture of a pressure vessel at the Loy Lange Box Company that killed four people and left another in critical condition.

A federal report says a St. Louis company’s steam condensation tank exploded, shooting into the air and through the roof of a neighboring business, after the tank was restarted despite needing emergency repairs. “This replacement ultimately did not occur”, explains Cheryl MacKenzie, an investigation team lead with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board. This launched the tank through the roof, crashing into the roof of neighboring business, Faultless Linen.

The City of St. Louis is required to inspect the pressure vessel by its ordinance; however, the CSB has received no evidence of inspection. Back in 2012, the tank was repaired for a leak. A city official said the tank was frequently inspected.

On Friday, March 31, 2017, employees again noticed a leak from the bottom of the vessel.

The tank parts were never replaced, investigators said. The system was shut down and a technician was scheduled to arrive 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. The thinness of the ring created a weakness, resulting in a piece of the tank to separate. This was a massive explosion – releasing energy equivalent to about 350 pounds of TNT.

Safety of things such as boilers and industrial water tanks are regulated nearly uniformly in Missouri, with standards that generally include periodic inspections.

“The city of St. Louis has jurisdictional authority for Loy Lange Box Company and is responsible for annual inspections of the SCR”.

The city instead requires a company to have a licensed stationary engineer on site. Four and half years later, on March 31, 2017, stationary engineers noticed a leak from the bottom of the SCR, the steam generation system was shut down and plans were made for the fix technician to arrive in the afternoon on April 3, which was the day of the explosion. In what was termed an “emergency fix”, a portion of the bottom of the tank was replaced with a custom made center section. One of the victims was an employee at Loy Lange Box Company and the three others were employees of Faultless Linen.

A report from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board made public Thursday stated that just three days before the explosion engineers noticed a leak and shut it down. It is not authorized to issue citations or fines, but it can make safety recommendations.

The Chemical Safety Board report says: “The investigation team has determined that the vessel failed due to corrosion.left behind during the 2012 fix”.

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