SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Danversport Explosion

November 20, 2007

The rebuilding of Danversport: One year later, here's what we've learned

DANVERS — For decades in Danversport, the ink and paint plant was an anonymous neighbor.

Many residents of nearby homes didn't know it was there. Others had only a passing understanding of what happened inside. All Dave Marcou of 3 Bates St. knew was that the plant made ink for the sheer plastic bags used in supermarkets. That's what a neighbor had told him.

"I knew there was an ink factory there, but I'm not a chemist," said Marcou, whose back yard faced the plant. "You assume that inspections are happening and everything is on the up and up."

The peaceful -- and in retrospect, naive -- coexistence of the plant and its neighbors came to an abrupt and destructive end in the early morning hours of Nov. 22, 2006 -- one year ago tomorrow.

Maybe a plant worker failed to turn off the heat warming an unsealed batch of chemicals for ink manufacturer CAI, Inc. Maybe the steam heating system malfunctioned.

What federal and state investigators each found was that the volatile mixture, including heptane and propyl alcohol, was overheated.

The plant's ventilation system wasn't on, as it should have been, and eventually the empty building was choked with flammable vapors from the chemical mixture. Then a spark from a still-unknown source somewhere in the plant's electronic machinery ignited the potent cocktail.

The 2:46 a.m. explosion, felt as far away as New Hampshire, collapsed roofs, blew out windows, unhinged deadbolted front doors and sent residents scurrying in their underwear toward an uncertain future. In Danvers, it also gave the date -- Nov. 22 -- a new significance.

"I was 11 years old when John Kennedy was shot on Nov. 22," Town Manager Wayne Marquis said. "That day had been ingrained in my brain as the day JFK died.

"But after Nov. 22 2006, Nov. 22 to me will be the day that we had the explosion in Danversport. It will always be that because it was like nothing I've ever experienced. I'm sure I'm not alone in that."

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News

Local News
  • 140765_SN_DLE_FESSENDEN4 Special Spaces transforms two downstairs rooms into playroom for Riley Fessenden

    BEVERLY -- What happens when the perfect kid-friendly playroom appears in your house overnight? Beverly's Fessenden kids were mostly speechless when they returned from seeing "The Little Mermaid" on Saturday and got their first look at the playroom t

    July 28, 2014 10 Photos

  • Beverly Hospital courier loses patients’ lab forms

    BEVERLY -- A courier for Beverly Hospital last month lost lab request forms for 54 patients that included names, health insurance identification numbers and, in some cases, Social Security numbers. The courier misplaced the forms, which were in a zip

    July 28, 2014

  • Big plans for three parks in the Point neighborhood SALEM -- One will be overhauled, another created from scratch, and a third will get a spiffed-up community garden. It's a good time to be a park in the Point neighborhood. The densely packed area just south of the city's downtown is on the verge of i

    July 28, 2014

  • Peabody could see school choice profit next year PEABODY -- After three years, the city's schools are projected not only to break even on school choice, but actually make a $30,000 profit. School officials expect to lose just under $300,000 in state aid next year for students who opt to attend scho

    July 28, 2014

  • 140723_SN_DLE_SALVARMY2 Dennis and Susan Knight take over Salem Salvation Army operation

    SALEM -- It was Christmas Eve in Sanford, Maine, but 8-year-old Dennis Knight and his three sisters had good reason to be short on holiday spirit: Their mom and dad had warned them there would be no Christmas that year. The family couldn't afford it.

    July 28, 2014 3 Photos