A bulk sugar silo exploded Tuesday morning at an Erlanger, KY candy manufacturing facility that produces Mentos, AirHeads and other candy and chewing gum products, the third explosion in a sugar silo at the site within 12 years, multiple local media sources reported.
No injuries were reported in the incident at the Perfetti Van Melle Co. plant, operated by a subsidiary of Dutch-Italian company Parfetti Van Melle Group B.V., one of the largest makers and distributors of chewing gum and confectionary products in the world. The company’s chief executive officer Mahmet Yuksek told Cincinatti, OH local NBC television news affiliate WLWT that an evacuation of employees occurred after the explosion.
“We’re trying to understand what exactly happened,” said Yuksek. “But the good news is, everybody’s accounted for, everybody’s safe.”
The explosion created a loud noise that was heard by local firefighters prior to receiving emergency calls, Point Pleasant Fire Chief Mike Giordano told Cincinnati television news station WCPO.
“You could see a slight plume go up, and you could smell the sugar – sweet smell – in the air,” a witness said in WCPO’s report.
Damages from the blast was reduced by the silo’s built-in pressure relief points, WCPO’s coverage said. Giordano told WLWT that the incident “was more of a flash fire” that responders were able to put out quickly. Production was halted for one shift.
“That process of moving a large amount of material through popes creates static electricity, so that’s a problem they’re battling on a regular basis. I’m not saying that’s what occurred here, but that’s what we’re continuing to concentrate our investigation on,” Giordano said according to WCPO.
A silo exploded at the facility in December 2015, and officials said that dust from candy production was the likely cause, multiple news organization noted. In 2003, a static charge led to an explosion that injured a worker, WCPO said.
Amsterdam-headquartered Parfetti Van Melle Group B.V. operates 32 manufacturing sites around the word that produce goods sold in more than 150 countries, according to the company’s website. In 2015, the Americas accounted for 14% of the company’s net sales.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is not opening an investigation into the most recent explosion, WCPO reported.