One man dies in water treatment frac chemical explosion

One man dies in water-treatment plant explosion by Brandon Mulder, January 4, 2016, mrt
An employee of a water treatment company died Monday when an explosion occurred as he was mixing chemicals, county officials said.

The explosion that occurred about 10:30 a.m. Monday at the business along North County Road 1140 just west of Midland killed Julian Gallardo, and destroyed a building, two RVs and three other vehicles, officials said.

“Upon arrival, a structure was completely engulfed in flames. Once the flame was extinguished, personnel discovered the body of (company employee) Julian Gallardo within the structure,” according to a press release from the county.

No other injuries were reported.

The initial explosion at Water Rescue Services was followed by a series of smaller ones, according to area residents, and a plume of smoke could be seen for miles. “In the house it sounded like the boom of fireworks but a little bit louder,” said Kayla Wilson, who heard the explosion from inside her home across the street. “And then you could hear a series of smaller ones.”

The Midland Fire Department, Northeast Fire Department, and the Greenwood Volunteer Fire Department all responded to the scene with more than six engines and extinguished the flames after a little more than an hour, according to the Midland Fire Marshall Dale Little.

“There was some sort of chemical reaction, or spark that caused the chemicals to react,” Little said Monday afternoon. “It looked like that was what happened. At this point it’s still under investigation.”

The building itself and all of its contents were completely destroyed by the blast and fire, Little said.

Although the fire emitted an odor, officials did not believe the burning chemicals to be toxic. [Do they know what the chemicals are?]

“The challenge of getting up around a chemical fire is knowing what you’re facing,” he said. “Some things you can’t put water to. You just can’t be sure what you’ve got until there’s somebody that can tell you what kind of chemical you’ve got.”

Supervisors of Water Rescue Services were on site as firefighters worked to put out the blaze. The company treats brackish and produced water for use in hydraulic fracturing operations. The investigation will also determine whether safety violations led to the accident, Little said.

Company representatives did not return inquiries by press time.

The body of Gallardo was transported for an autopsy. [Emphasis added]

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