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Explosion at U.S. Steel Coke Works Outside Pittsburgh Injures 15

Jul 14, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP

An explosion at a U.S. Steel Corporation plant outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has injured 15 workers. The blast occurred shortly after 9:30 this morning, at U.S. Steel Corporation’s Clairton Plant, the largest coke manufacturing facility in the United States.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a cause of the blast has not been determined. However, some witnesses said the explosion was ignited by coke oven gas, which is produced in the coke-making process and is used to bake the impurities out of coal. Emergency officials, however, later said their was no gas leak.

Coke is a fuel used to produce steel. According to the U.S. Steel Web site, the Clairton plant has 12 coke oven batteries and 75 ovens that produce approximately 4.7 million tons of coke annually. The explosion occurred in the facility’s number 2 B battery, its largest.

Most of the injured suffered burns, some serious. They were taken to several area hospitals: UPMC Mercy, UPMC Presbyterian, UPMC McKeesport, Jefferson Regional and West Penn, the Post-Gazette. Three of the 15 went to West Penn, which has a burn unit. At UPMC McKeesport, where the injured were initially treated, a decontamination unit was set up.

Of the three taken to the West Penn Burn Unit, two are in critical condition. A doctor there told the Post-Gazette that those patients, both men in their 50s suffered chemical burns in their airways. The third man, in his 40’s has over 10 to 12 percent of his body and an ankle fracture. All are expected to survive.

All of the facility’s workers have been accounted for. Allegheny County’s emergency management chief, Bob Full, told the Post-Gazette it was a “miracle” no one was killed in the explosion.

The fire at the plant burned until about 2:45 p.m. Officials with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating.

According to the Post-Gazette, this is the second explosion at the Clairton facility since last September, when a blast in one of two control rooms killed one man and injured another.

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