Worker remains critical after plant explosion

BELPRE – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the incident at Enviro-Tank Clean Inc. which led to an explosion and three workers being sent to area hospitals on Tuesday.

An explosion occurred around 8:50 a.m. Tuesday while a mixture of fuel and water was being transferred from a truck to a storage tank. Officials with the Ohio Fire Marshal’s Office determined it was caused by an excessive amount of gasoline vapor in an area where there were multiple potential ignition sources.

The fire marshal has ruled the explosion accidental.

Kevin McClain, 32, of Ravenswood remained in critical condition Wednesday in the burn unit of Cabell Huntington Hospital in Huntington, according to hospital spokesman Charles Shumaker.

McClain is an employee of BBU Services of West Virginia, a Kenna-based environmental construction contractor. The gasoline-water mixture was being unloaded from a BBU truck at the Enviro-Tank facility, according to officials.

Two other men, Justin A. Flesher, 33, and Fred E. Johnston, 53, both Enviro-Tank employees who live in Belpre, were treated and released Tuesday at area hospitals. Flesher sustained burns on his left arm and was treated and released from Marietta Memorial Hospital. Johnston suffered burns to his face, hair, arms and chest and was treated and released from Camden Clark Medical Center’s Memorial Campus.

Deborah Zubaty, OSHA area director in Columbus, said an OSHA representative was on site at Enviro-Tank Tuesday shortly after the explosion. On Wednesday an OSHA compliance officer arrived to conduct an investigation.

“Right now we are trying to get information as to what caused the explosion. We are interviewing management, employees, trying to find out what happened and what could have been prevented,” she said.

Zubaty said OSHA maintains an online database of open and past investigations at Searches for Enviro-Tank and BBU showed no results.

“We believe that it is a tragic accident, and we are also monitoring the condition of those workers,” who were injured in the blast, she said.

Zubaty said she is unsure whether the West Virginia branch of OSHA will become involved in the investigation since the accident involved a West Virginia company and worker.

Heather Lauer, spokeswoman for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, or OEPA, said officials had a representative at the plant Tuesday, but it was unlikely the department would continue any investigation.

“We were on the scene, but we weren’t investigating, we were observing whether any contaminates made it off-site,” Lauer said. “It was determined there wasn’t anything that was getting off the property.”

At this point, Lauer said, the OEPA is not investigating.

“There is nothing that would indicate that we would have further involvement in the investigation,” she said.

Enviro-Tank Vice President Ray Lutes said the facility, which employs about 20 people, was operating again Wednesday, albeit on a limited basis.

“It’s just minimal operation right now,” he said.

The unloading area where the explosion took place is closed, along with the adjoining tank wash. Lutes said the company is waiting on an insurance adjuster to examine the site.

Enviro-Tank is an industrial wastewater treatment company at 12381 State Route 7 in Dunham Township. The gasoline-water mix is a common substance for them to treat, Lutes said Tuesday.