SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

June 7, 2011

Lawmakers push boiler bill

Say more training could prevent a future Danversport blast

DANVERS — A legislative committee is mulling more training for boiler operators in light of the fiery 2006 Danversport chemical plant blast and a subsequent explosion that rocked the North Shore at the Bostik plant in Middleton in March.

Yesterday afternoon, lawmakers met in a room at the New England Homes for the Deaf, which suffered heavy damage nearly five years ago in the Thanksgiving Eve blast.

Members of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure were treated to a video produced by the facility that showed the community room's picture windows all boarded up after being blown out.

The explosion at the former CAI/Arnel ink and paint plant was so powerful that it shattered windows and pulled down ceiling tiles and duct work and caused widespread damage throughout the New England Homes for the Deaf, even though it is across the Waters River from the chemical plant.

There was so much damage, about 70 deaf and deaf-blind residents had to move out for several months to a nursing home in Beverly that could accommodate them, Executive Director Emmanuel Ikomi said.

"We went through a very rough time here," said Ikomi, whose tenure as the homes' leader began after the incident.

State Rep. Ted Speliotis, D-Danvers, who grew up not far from the explosion site, is pushing a bill he hopes will head off such a blast in the future. Speliotis is sponsoring House Bill No. 122, which would increase levels of experience for steam boiler operators, no matter how small the boiler. It would require all commercial boilers be checked every four hours.

The bill was filed awhile ago, but Speliotis, the committee's co-chairman, brought it back in light of the explosion at the Bostik chemical plant on March 13 in Middleton.

In both instances, it appeared human error was to blame because valves were left open, so the bill would require boiler operators to have more experience.

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