Stamford wastewater plant explosion injures 3, felt like an ‘earthquake’

This is a common problem with waste water sludge being made into Processed Sewage Pellets (PSP), the dust is very exothermic and prone to fires and explosions

STAMFORD — Three people suffered minor injuries in an explosion late Thursday night at the city Water Pollution Control Facility.

Dust from a piece of equipment at the 111 Harborview Ave. plant exploded around 10:49 p.m., creating a thunderous noise that felt like an “earthquake,” according to one area resident.

“I heard this and my place actually shook,” one Facebook user commented. “Thought it was a earthquake!”

There was no fire, but EMS and firefighters responded to the scene, Stamford fire Lt. Kevin Connell said.

Three employees of the plant who suffered minor injuries were taken to Stamford Hospital and later released. Police said the employees were sent to the hospital with cuts and bruises.

Director of Administration Michael Handler said the explosion happened in Building 15, where a machine used to dry wastewater sludge and turn it into pellets is located. The operation of the drying machine, called a polyscyclone, is contracted out to a company called Synagro.

Handler said Synagro had turned off a fan to make a repair and when it was powered back up, the explosion occurred.

One of those taken to the hospital was a city Water Pollution Control Authority employee who had a bump on his head and was kept overnight with a possible concussion.

A subcontractor hired by Synagro suffered small cuts on his arms and was treated and released. The third person taken to the hospital was a Synagro employee, who was released immediately, Handler said.

Chief Fire Marshall Bud Seely said investigators believe a hot ember was drawn into the polycyclone, which ignited the dust in the machine causing the explosion.

“We are still investigating and we are looking at other possibilities, but that is the most probable,” Seely said. “We are not aware of any other explosions. It was quite a pressure wave that was created.”

“Firefighters worked with plant officials to ensure all facility personnel were accounted for, assess the extent of the damage, and to secure the processes that were occurring in the building, preventing another explosion. There was no fire observed,” said Deputy Fire Chief Tom Gloersen.

Several metal roll-up doors were blown apart by the powerful explosion, and windows at the plant were blown out.

“Although the water treatment facility was damaged, the facility has contingency plans in place for treating the sewage in the event of a facility failure,” Gloersen said.

Employees of the city’s Building Department arrived at the scene at 3 a.m. to determine if the plant received any structural damage during the blast.

Local officials and the Connecticut OSHA office were notified of the incident.

The plant processes wastewater from Stamford and Darien and discharges clean water into the East Branch of Stamford Harbor.

First built in 1943, it was upgraded in 1976 and 2006.

In his state of the city address last month, Mayor David Martin noted some improvements are needed at the plant. “We cannot afford to ignore the city’s infrastructure. Our roads and other infrastructure projects, including the WPCA (the Water Pollution Control Authority), are now receiving long-awaited improvements to better serve our community’s needs.”

The facility is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

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