Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

March 5, 2014

Judge approves W.Va. plant explosion settlement


Associated Press

NEW CUMBERLAND — A judge has approved a settlement that resolves federal workplace and environmental civil charges at a plant in Hancock County where an explosion killed three workers in 2010.

Under the settlement, metal recycler AL Solutions in New Cumberland agreed to pay a $100,000 civil penalty to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a $97,000 civil penalty to the U.S. Department of Labor, The Review (http://bit.ly/NU3oKG) of East Liverpool, Ohio, reported.

AL Solutions also agreed to process or dispose of 2.4 million pounds of titanium and zirconium stored at its facilities in New Cumberland and Weirton by December, and to implement safety procedures for the New Cumberland plant. The safety procedures include hydrogen monitoring and forward-looking infrared heat detection to identify volatile drums and prevent fires and explosions.

Brothers James Eugene Fish, 38, and Jeffrey Scott Fish, 39, both of New Cumberland, and Steven Swain, 27, of Weirton, were killed when an explosion occurred at the New Cumberland plant in December 2010. The brothers were pronounced dead at the scene and Swain died four days later at a Pittsburgh hospital.

The explosion occurred when titanium and/or zirconium powder reacted with moisture, causing the release of hydrogen gas. The gas ignited and caused titanium and zirconium particulates and filings to explode, according to the federal civil complaint.

AL Solutions recycles titanium and zirconium raw materials for use as alloying additives by aluminum producers.

“Our combined efforts have resulted in settlements that provide a comprehensive framework for the company to build cutting-edge safeguards into its processes in order to protect people and the environment,” EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin told the newspaper.

Storage violations alleged by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection also will be resolved through the settlement, DEP spokesman Tom Aluise said.

“There was a disagreement over the question of whether the materials were hazardous waste; however, it was resolved because (AL Solutions) agreed to remove all wastes by December 2014,” Aluise told the newspaper.

The newspaper said company officials declined to be interviewed regarding the settlement.

Lawsuits filed by the victims’ families against AL Solutions are pending in Hancock County Circuit Court.

“We intend to push the case towards trial,” Mark Colantonio, one of the Fish family’s lawyers, told the newspaper.