Gas blast at Conn. power plant kills at least 5


By PAT EATON-ROBB and JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN, Associated Press Writers

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. – An explosion blew apart a power plant under construction as workers purged natural gas lines Sunday, killing at least five people and injuring a dozen or more in a blast that shook homes for miles, officials said.

Middletown Mayor Sebastian Giuliano said at a late-afternoon news conference that five people were known dead and at least 12 injured.

Deputy Fire Marshal Al Santostefano told The Associated Press before a news conference Sunday evening that crews were still searching for survivors in the rubble at the Kleen Energy Systems plant in Middletown, about 20 miles south of Hartford.

Santostefano earlier said about 50 people were in the area around 11:17 a.m., when the explosion occurred. The mayor said at the news conference it was difficult to tell how many people were at the plant because multiple contractors were working on it with their own employee lists.

“They’re trying to figure out who was on the job today, and where are they now?” Giuliano said.

The 620-megawatt plant was being built to produce energy primarily using natural gas. Santostefano said workers for the construction company, O&G Industries, were purging the gas lines, a procedure he called a “blow-down,” when the explosion occurred.

Lynn Hawley, 54, of Hartland, Conn., told the AP that her son, Brian Hawley, 36, is a pipefitter at the plant. He called her from his cell phone to say he was being rushed to Middlesex Hospital.

“He really couldn’t say what happened to him,” she said. “He was in a lot of pain, and they got him into surgery as quickly as possible.”

She said he had a broken leg and was expected to survive.

Officials had not released the conditions of the other injured people by late Sunday afternoon, but hospitals reported some seriously injured patients.

The thundering blast shook houses for miles.

“I felt the house shake, I thought a tree fell on the house,” said Middletown resident Steve Clark.

Barrett Robbins-Pianka, who lives about a mile away and has monitored the project for years, said she was running outside and heard what she called “a tremendous boom.”

“I thought it might be some test or something, but it was really loud, a definite explosion,” she said.

Kleen Energy Systems LLC began construction on the power plant in February 2008. It had signed a capacity deal with Connecticut Light and Power for the electricity produced by the plant. Construction was scheduled to be completed by mid-2010.

The company is run by president and former Middletown City Council member William Corvo. A message left at Corvo’s home was not immediately returned.

Calls to Gordon Holk, general manager of Power Plant Management Services, which has a contract to manage the plant, weren’t immediately returned.

Plants powered by natural gas are taking on a much larger role in generating electricity for the U.S. Gas emits about half the greenhouse gases of coal-fired plants and new technology has allowed natural gas companies to begin to unlock gas supplies that could total more than 100 years at current usage levels.

Natural gas is used to make about a fifth of the nation’s electricity.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell was on her way Sunday afternoon to the site after speaking with Middletown Mayor Sebastian Giuliano, and called out a specialized search and rescue team to help firefighters.

The state’s Emergency Operations Center in Hartford also was activated, and the Department of Public Health was called to provide tents at the scene for shelter and medical triage.

Rell said the emergency teams were expected to work through the night and into Monday.

Daniel Horowitz, a spokesman with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, said the agency is mobilizing an investigation team from Colorado and hopes to have the workers on the scene Monday.

Safety board investigators have done extensive work on the issue of gas line purging since an explosion last year at a Slim Jim factory in North Carolina killed four people. They’ve identified other explosions caused by workers who were unsafely venting gas lines inside buildings.

The board voted last week to recommend that national and international code writers strengthen their guidelines to require outdoor venting of gas lines or an approved safety plan to do it indoors.

In February 2009, an explosion at a We Energies coal-fired power plant near Milwaukee burned six workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is still investigating.

In the past few years, an explosion at a Dominion Virginia Power coal-fired plant in Massachusetts killed three workers in November 2007, while one worker and nine others were injured at an American Electric Power plant of the same type in Beverly, Ohio, in January 2007.

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Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Stephanie Reitz in Glastonbury, Conn.; Mark Williams in Columbus, Ohio; Mike Baker in Raleigh, N.C.; and Anne D’Innocenzio in New York.

100 Years Ago: The Amazing Technology of 1910


I found this very interesting article in Yahoo! News and thought of sharing it with all of you.

Heather Whipps
Special to LiveScience
LiveScience.com Heather Whipps
special To Livescience
livescience.com
Fri Jan 1, 11:05 am ET


The dawn of 2010 promises more amazing developments in the world of technology. Already, tourists can visit space, for a price, nearly everything and everyone is going digital, and medical science continues to test the boundaries of what makes us truly human. One full century ago, the new technologies that had people talking were considered just as groundbreaking. Electricity led the charge of developments that were changing the way people lived every day, with transportation and chemistry not far behind. As the clocks of 1909 ticked towards 1910, more exciting inventions were just around the corner.

The first decade of the 1900s was an exciting time to be alive, with inventors continuing to make major strides in all disciplines.
The early years of the century saw the general public finally able to enjoy the fruits of what was achieved in electrical engineering during the previous century. By 1910, many suburban homes had been wired up with power and new electric gadgets were being patented with fervor. Vacuum cleaners and washing machines had just become commercially available, though were still too expensive for many middle-class families. The telephone was another hot new commodity in 1910, with millions of American homes already connected by manual switchboard. Those who did not have a phone to call their neighbor still had to rely on the paper for their news, however; though radio technology was in its infancy, regular broadcasts were still several years away. In transportation, those first years of the 20th century began the age of the airship, marked by a craze for dirigibles such as the Zeppelin and the Wright Brothers’ historic flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903. Henry Ford introduced his landmark Model T in 1908, making automobiles available and affordable to the masses for the first time.
Chemistry also charged full steam ahead in 1910. Advances in the use of gases chilled the world out with the release of the first electric refrigerators and air-conditioning units, while French inventor Georges Claude harnessed neon in glass tubes and debuted neon lighting in Paris, changing the face of seedy advertising forever. Other new inventions, both influential and inane, that were making waves one century ago included:
  • Bakelite plastic
  • Escalators
  • Teabags

  • Cellophane

  • Instant coffee

  • Disposable razor blades
The best thing before sliced bread. The world was modernizing quickly by 1910, but some everyday things we take for granted now were then still just a glimmer in their inventors’ eyes. Men were still relying on buttons and women on painful corsets until 1913, for example, when clothing technology got a boost with the development of the zipper and modern brassiere. Unfortunate zipper accidents likely healed better with the invention of the modern Band-Aid, which came about seven years later. Steel turned rusty until mid-decade, when the stainless variety ushered in a new era of efficient gun barrels and, later, shiny appliances. Finally, though the pop-up toaster first hit the market in 1919, the public had to wait almost ten years for its practicality to be fully realized. The “greatest thing” of the modern age, the one invention against which all others are now compared-sliced bread-was born in Missouri in 1928.

We’re just so modernised now that it sounds funny that once a person invented sliced bread and teabags. I guess in another hundred years, computers are no longer thought as an invention but as a daily need.