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Barton Solvents Removing Tanks Destroyed in Kansas Plant Explosion

Aug 27, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP, LLP

Barton Solvents has begun removing storage tanks that were destroyed in a July 17 explosion at its Valley Center plant.   The blast, which rocked the small Kansas town, resulted in the evacuation of 200 people living near the facility.

Barton Solvents began cutting up and removing the tanks on Friday, after the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board informed the company that it was finished examining the tanks.  The board had given Barton Solvents permission to dismantle the tanks and remove debris from the plant, although the investigation is still ongoing.  One of the Board’s investigators told the Wichita Eagle that the on-the-ground investigation of the Barton Solvent’s plant is done, but that the investigation is far from over.   The Board, an independent federal agency that investigates industrial chemical accidents, is still examining equipment at the Valley Center facility.  It could be some time before the Board issues a final report on the Barton Solvents explosion.

The Barton Solvents plant explosion occurred at 9:15 a.m. on July 17, and resulted in a massive fire.  Witnesses said that smoke and flames billowed more than 200 feet into the air, and at least 15 smaller explosions were heard. Authorities said that 36 storage tanks containing about 660,000 pounds of chemicals burned during the fire.   The tanks contained hydrocarbons, ketones and alcohol.  The explosions started on a tanker truck that was pumping naphtha into a 15,000-gallon tank.   The Kansas Fire Marshall has said that static electricity in the tank was responsible for igniting the explosion.

Earlier this month, Barton Solvent’s announced plans to rebuild the Valley Center plant, and said that it will replace all of the facility’s storage tanks during the rebuilding.  The current tanks were built in 1979, and are no longer up to code.

In a statement issued to announce the removal of the tanks, Barton Solvents president David Casten thanked the citizens of Valley Center for the patience shown the company.   "Since the fire, we've had the opportunity to observe the kindness of our neighbors first hand, which has been a tremendous experience," the statement read. "Moving forward, there is a great deal of work to be done, but this is an important next step for all of us.”

Earlier this month, in an attempt to rehabilitate its reputation following the explosion, Barton Solvents offered to purchase fire fighting foam for the Valley Center Fire Department.  The day of the explosion, it had taken the fire department hours to find enough foam to fight the ensuing fire.  Barton Solvents said that the department could use the foam to fight any fire, and that the company would pay to replenish the supply as needed.

Barton Solvents also has said that it has issued 1,491 reimbursement checks to Valley Center residents who were forced to evacuate as a result of the explosion.  Barton Solvents will not divulge how much it has spent on reimbursements thus far.

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