Cause of arc flash and fire at power plant determined
A brief explosion created by an "arc flash" from a 600-volt electrical panel that seriously injured a Ware River Power Inc. (Massachusetts) employee was accidental, investigators from the state fire marshal's office have concluded.
Another employee suffered serious injuries, and a third worker, although hospitalized, returned to the scene the day of the April 17 electrical fire to assist investigators, a report provided by the fire marshal says.
Trooper Brian Clapprood of the Massachusetts State Police Fire and Explosion Investigation Unit, wrote the report that was obtained by The Republican this week following a public records request.
The document shows that OSHA, which initially was expected to conduct an investigation, did not do so.
"I contacted Rick Abbott at OSHA after the incident and was informed that due to the low minimum number of total employees at Ware River Power, OSHA would not be involved in any type of investigation. I then contacted Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents. They stated that because the employees had workman's compensation, that their office would not be conducting any form of investigation," Clapprood wrote in the report that was completed July 13.
The report says investigators "determined that the incident was not suspicious and was likely the result of some type of human or mechanical accident."
The report also shows that an investigation by the insurance company handling the worker's compensation claims has not been completed. The report says the insurance company "believed that there may be a mechanical issue with the fuse disconnect switch" involving the electrical panel.
The report says the worker who was the most seriously burned from the heat of the arc flash pulled a lever on the 600-volt box to disconnect power while the other two injured workers were behind him.
"It was at this point that some type of 'arc flashing' occurred," Clapprood wrote.
Ware River Power Inc. is owned by Lucas Wright. The plant is located at 16 East Main St. in Ware.
According to the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, the WRP's facility "consists of two dams and a total of five turbines within ¼ mile of each other on the Ware River in Ware."
Source: The Republican, Springfield MA www.masslive.com