February 18, 2020

4 Min Read
Reaction Causes Several Explosions at Chemical Plant
Several explosions rocked the PCI Synthesis plant in Newburyport, MA last Thursday. Representative image. Image courtesy of Pixabay

Several explosions occurred at a Massachusetts chemical plant last Thursday, forcing workers to evacuate the site and causing damage to the facility’s roof, local news organizations and the Associated Press (AP) reported late last week.

First responders were called to the PCI Synthesis chemical processing facility after a sprinkler activated inside the site at about 4:15 a.m., according to fire officials. Upon arrival, crews observed thick smoke coming from the structure, television news station WHDH said. 

Three explosions happened while emergency personnel were inside the building, according to coverage by WCVB. One of the blasts reportedly caused a 5’ by 8’ hole in the plant’s roof. 

After an investigation, officials said that a chemical reaction likely caused the series of explosions. 

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“Investigators have determined that several explosions occurred during a sampling procedure of product from a large vat,” the commonwealth’s Department of Fire Services said in a statement issued last Friday. 

No injuries were recorded during the response, officials said. In addition to the Newburyport Fire Department, a Joint Hazard Incident Response Team (JHIRT) reported to the facility during the incident, including members of the State Police Bomb Squad and a state Hazardous Materials Team. 

AP identified Seqens North America is the operator of the site. A company statement issued to the news wire service said the explosions were contained to one area of the facility. 

“Most of the facility was untouched and is completely operational; the affected suite represents one small, isolated room,” Sequens said. “We want to thank the authorities for their quick work in ensuring the facility is safe and ready to re-open so that we can get back to work.”

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited PCI Synthesis’ plant in Newburyport with nine serious violations and two other violations in June 2019. Records show the company faced an initial penalty of $86,266. 

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