ConAgra Slim Jim Plant Wreckage

CSB Public Meeting to Explore Fatal Blast at Slim Jim Plant

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board will hold a public meeting on Thursday, Feb. 4, in Raleigh, N.C., to present preliminary findings from its investigation of the June 9, 2009, natural gas explosion and ammonia release at the ConAgra Food Slim Jim facility in Garner, N.C., that killed four workers and injured 70 others.

The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at the Raleigh Sheraton Ballroom located at 421 South Salisbury Street in downtown Raleigh. The meeting is free and open to the public.

At the meeting, the CSB investigative team will present its preliminary findings on the circumstances of the accident to the three CSB board members and the public. The board will then receive testimony from outside experts concerning safety issues raised by the accident, focusing on the topic of safe purging of natural gas piping. Following a public comment period, the board is expected to consider draft staff recommendations for changes to the National Fuel Gas Code, which establishes gas purging practices followed across the country. The meeting will be videotaped, and an official transcript will be published.

The explosion occurred during the commissioning of a new, gas-fired industrial water heater at the plant, when natural gas was purged into the interior of the building. The gas accumulated to an explosive concentration and ignited; the ensuing blast caused large sections of the building to collapse.

"This was a serious accident which claimed the lives of four workers, injured scores of others, and resulted in hundreds of job losses," said CSB Chairman John Bresland. "The goal of the CSB investigation is to recommend measures that will help prevent other devastating accidents during gas purging operations."

Board investigators said they have identified a number of similar gas purging accidents in recent years, including an explosion at a Michigan power plant in 1999 that killed 6 and caused $1 billion in property damage and an explosion in 2008 at a San Diego hotel that injured 14.

CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems. The board does not issue citations or fines but does make safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA.

For more information, contact Director of Public Affairs Dr. Daniel Horowitz at (202) 261-7613, cell (202) 441-6074, or Public Affairs Specialist Hillary Cohen at (202) 261-3601, cell (202) 446-8094.

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