Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Mass. Explosion: Chemical Safety Board Joins Investigation

Cooler heads have prevailed and the Chemical Safety Board has been allowed to join the investigation of the massive explosion at a CAI, Inc., that destroyed part of a neighborhood in Danvers, Massachusetts last week. A statement released jointly by the CSB along with the the Office of the State Fire Marshal, the Danvers (MA) Fire Department, the Executive Office of Public Safety and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms said that:
Consistent with its authority and jurisdiction under the federal Clean Air Act, U.S. Chemical Safety Board investigators are currently on the site of the November 22 explosion in Danvers, Massachusetts, along with teams from the ATF, Massachusetts Department of Fire Services, Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Office of the State Fire Marshal, and the Danvers Fire Department. All parties have agreed to cooperate in executing their different missions. The CSB and ATF will coordinate to ensure the integrity of the ongoing civil and criminal investigations during the access to the site.
The agreement followed a meeting among the parties this morning.

More newspaper editorials chimed in as well. A Boston Globe editorial, calling the dispute an "egregious" example of counterproductive turf wars, said that
It's understandable that local firefighters who risk their lives responding to chemical explosions might take a proprietary approach to such sites. But cooler heads, such as those from the State Fire Marshal's office, are supposed to recognize the immediate value of a federal team that includes chemical and mechanical engineers with decades of investigative experience, blast modelers, and combustible dust experts. And unlike local officials, federal investigators not only examine the factors contributing to the blast but also analyze and publicize their findings to prevent similar explosions across the country. Stiff-necked local fire officials have no cause to interfere with such work.
The North Andover Eagle Tribune also chimed in:
Fire Chief James Tutko has assembled a team of investigators from his department and other local and state agencies to go through the ruins of the CAI and Arnel manufacturing operations at 126 Water St. But his refusal to allow the federal Chemical Safety Board similar access in the days immediately following the incident was puzzling to say the least.

Unlike the locals, for whom this is (we hope) a once-in-a-career event, the federal agency has plenty of experience investigating this type of industrial mishap. There had to be a way of allowing the various investigative agencies to look at the scene without interfering with each other or trampling on evidence.

Danvers residents expect and deserve answers as to the cause of this catastophe. The unseemly turf battle simply raised more questions about what may have occurred.