, Salem, MA

Local News

March 10, 2010

Bill aims to head off error seen as cause in blast

DANVERS — Water Street resident James Turcotte lived through the Danversport blast nearly 31âÑ2 years ago.

To prevent such an explosion from happening elsewhere in the state, Turcotte has become the driving force behind a bill on Beacon Hill to license those who operate the type of low-pressure boilers he says were once found at the former Water Street ink and coatings plant.

The plant blew up at 2:46 a.m. on Nov. 22, 2006, and damaged or destroyed dozens of homes and buildings, cars, and boats at a nearby marina.

"We came down the stairs, and the front windows were gone, the side windows were gone and the walls were cracked," Turcotte said, recounting what he found in his home that night.

Turcotte knows a thing or two about boilers as he works as the chief engineer in charge of the large boilers at the Hogan Regional Center in Danvers. He is also the president of the state Chapter 146 Association, a group that aims to preserve a strong license law for those who operate boilers.

Turcotte says training and licensing could have prevented the blast by tightening the requirements for those who operate low-pressure boilers used in manufacturing plants.

"Jimmy has always made the point," said state Rep. Ted Speliotis, D-Danvers, "and I agree with him — the lack of training for the person operating the steam boiler was the real cause of that explosion."

The bill would require all steam boilers used in manufacturing "to be operated by a licensed operator who has to check it every four hours and keep a document of it," Speliotis said.

The move is opposed by at least one industry association.

Under the bill, a low-pressure boiler operator's license would be renewed every five years and require 30 hours of training.

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