A publication of Work On Waste USA, Inc., 82 Judson, Canton, NY 13617 315-379-9200 AUGUST 1995
On-Line: 1991. Tons per day: 1,200. Boiler maker: Zurn Industries.
Owner: Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority
Location: Route 441, Conoy Township, near Bainbridge and Marietta, on the Susquehanna River.
Note: the cause of the explosion is under investigation.
Lancaster New Era (Lancaster, PA), July 29, 1995,
Conoy Township police confirmed that Aaron J. Moore, 23,
of Steelton, an auxiliary engineer, died of his injuries at Johns
Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore. Moore, who was severely
burned by hot gases that rushed from the damaged boiler, had initially
been taken to Hershey Medical Center on Friday before he was airlifted
to the burn unit at Bayview.
A few weeks ago, a former management-level worker at the Lancaster County incinerator told his wife someone was going to die if long-standing problems at the plant werent fixed...Angered by what they consider the needless deaths of two co-workers in last weeks explosions, three current or former Ogden-Martin Systems technical workers at the plant have come forward with allegations. They claim the plant has been the site of long-known safety problems, illegal repairs and procedural violations that they say still continue....The workers, one a mechanic, one an instrumentation technician and one involved with safety, will speak soon with state and federal investigators...All three spoke under the condition that they not be identified. They allege:
* Lightning-strike problems have plagued the incinerator almost every summer since its debut, shutting down the plant for up to five days at a time and sometimes knocking out key safety equipment. Ogden Martin, which built and operates the plant, called in experts to look at the problem, but no changes have been made, the workers say.
* Electrostatic Relief Valves, among the several safety switches designed to vent steam from a boiler in an emergency, were overly sensitive and often were turned off at the control panel. They didnt work - it was common knowledge among everybody there, said one of the workers, a former Ogden-Martin technician at the plant. A lot of times when I worked they didnt work. They (Ogden Martin) just didn't want to spend the money.
* Illegal steam welds were made occasionally. Though probably done properly, the in-house welds were sometimes done without testing and documentation required by the state.
* Unplanned shutdowns from lightning strikes and ruptured steam tubes that carry highly-pressurized steam have made the Lancaster County plant the poorest performing of 26 Ogden-Martin incinerators in the United States. [sic - Ed.]
* State Department of Environmental Protection records show that since Feb. 27, the plant has experienced 19 unscheduled shutdowns of one or more of the three boilers. Boiler No. 2 had experienced an unscheduled shutdown as recently as July 23, five days before it exploded.
...Lightning strikes can occur at almost any power plant because
of the height of the structures, said one Ogden-Martin employee
who was at the plant Friday during the boiler explosion. Such
strikes, he explained, can cause an automatic shutdown of the
burning process and of its extreme heat and pressure. But the
Lancaster County plants problems with bolts have been more
extreme, the employee said. Strikes sometimes, he said, burned
up computer cards in the operating room that controlled
the burning process. The first of Fridays strikes made
the soon-to-explode boiler operate for about 15 minutes without
controls, the worker said. Its like putting a
paper bag over your head and driving down the road. There was
no control in the operation room. You could tell from conversations
on the radio. It was pandemonium. Moreover, even
if electricity feeding the plant is cut off - something the worker
said happened at least four times since 1990 - a plant is supposed
to be able to operate from the power it is generating from trash.
But the Lancaster plant, workers said, has experienced total
power outages - in operator jargon, black-plant conditions.
At least three times in four years, we lost power from
Metropolitan Edison and we couldnt bring the boilers back
up, said a former worker involved with safety. When that
happens, he said, water feeding the incineration system is lost.
Without water, he explained, heat and gases build up, creating
conditions that could lead to an explosion if other steps arent
taken...The trio of whistleblowers all spoke at length about explosion
dangers associated with an unusually high number of steam-tube
ruptures at the plant. Hundreds of the carbon-steel tubes, in
which heat converts water to steam, are wrapped inside and outside
the furnace. The walls of the quarter-inch tubes, which carry
extremely high pressure, eventually wear out from the extreme
heat and pressure. They must meet rigorous state standards.
But money-conscious Ogden-Martin was heavy on repairs and reluctant
to replace whole sections of the tubes, the three workers said.
The result, they said, was an unusually high amount of plant
shut-downs in one or more of the three boilers and a growing danger
of an explosion. Recently, one or more tubes were rupturing on
a weekly basis, the main reason for the plants poor record
for staying in operation and generating electricity, they maintained.
One safety worker who worked directly on the problem has kept
well-documented records of the failures to show investigators...During
a recent scheduled plant shutdown when all components of the incinerator
were checked, thinning areas were found in tubes, but
repairs werent made because they wanted to get back on line,
he noted... August 2, 1995: Two more former
workers at the Lancaster County incinerator have come forward
with allegations of broken equipment, improperly trained personnel
and other concerns...Four of the workers are or were employees
of Ogden-Martin...One was a construction worker when the $105
million facility was built... Lancaster New Era,
Incinerator criticized by 2 more ex-workers. Note:
In a press conference on Aug. 3, Ogden Martin president Scott
Mackin denied most of the allegations but did admit that welds
were made on the boiler system by an uncertified worker.
July 30, 1995: According to Herb Flosdorf, the executive director of the Lancaster County Solid Waste Authority: With one boiler out of commission, the plant will be able to burn only about 800 tons of waste a day when the other two units are put back in service, which is expected to be sometime this week....In the meantime, excess trash will be taken to the Creswell landfill in Manor Township. It may be several months until all three boilers are working, Flosdorf said. When the plant is fully operational, waste will be reclaimed from the landfill for burning, he noted. Until last year, the plant had been running above capacity, because 20 percent of the trash burned there - about 70,000 tons a year, Flosdorf said - was being harvested from Creswell... Sunday News (Lancaster, PA), An Act of God: 2nd man dies in explosion, by Stephen Kopfinger.
Plant Plant Date System No. of Total Fines Since
Location Operator Certified Boilers Certification
Chester, Waste Resource Energy, Inc. 7-27-92 6 $354,744
Delaware County (subsidiary of Westinghouse)
Conshohocken, Montenay Energy Resources 8-27-92 2 $ 84,274
Bainbridge, Ogden Martin Systems of 9-17-91 3 $140,045
Lancaster County Lancaster, Inc.
Manchester Township, York Resource Energy 7-16-90 3 $ 94,994
York County Systems (Westinghouse subsidiary)
...CEMs provide the [Pennsylvania] Department of Environment with constant readings for temperature, combustion efficiency, carbon monoxide, hydrochloric acid, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and opacity, or smoke density...DEP officials agree that the fines for CEM violations do not necessarily indicate a public health threat. But they note that some of the violations can lead to conditions that increase the likelihood of more serious pollutants escaping into the atmosphere. In addition, some of the fines were for CEM breakdowns that interrupted the flow of emissions data to the DEP. Officials said penalties for CEM breakdowns are intended to discourage plants from shutting off their monitoring systems during periods of high emissions.
Lancaster New Era, August 7, 1995, County incinerators $140,000 in fines isnt worst record in Pa, by Tim Buckwalter.
WASTE NOT # 341. A publication of Work on Waste USA, published 48 times a year. Annual rates are: Groups & Non-Profits $50; Students & Seniors $35; Individual $40; Consultants & For-Profits $125; Canadian $US50; Overseas $70.