FARMERS VALLEY, Pa. — An explosion at a Smethport wax plant that injured a worker has been ruled accidental in nature, following a joint fire marshal investigation into the Sunday morning blast.
A report released by Ridgway-based state police fire marshal Cpl. Greg Agosti on Tuesday night says the investigation into Sunday’s explosion at the International Wax Inc. (Petrowax) plant in Smethport found no suspicious circumstances surrounding the catastrophic event and no continued threat to the environment or area surrounding the facility.
The investigation was undertaken by nine fire marshals in total: Five from the Pennsylvania State Police and four from the Pittsburgh-area Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Their combined findings point to the blast originating in the plant’s filter house “as a result of an accidental cause.” The report gives no further information on the cause of the explosion or how the accidental ruling was reached. Cpl. Agosti was unable to be reached for further comment Tuesday and no other investigators were identified.
The blast is said to have significantly damaged the filter house while also destroying a smaller building and causing moderate structural damage to five other buildings on the 575-acre industrial site. A damage assessment has yet to be completed and no dollar amount for the destruction tallied.
In his press release, Cpl. Agosti reports no injuries to emergency responders on scene Sunday.
An employee of the plant injured in the explosion was treated for injuries and released. The injured employee’s identity has not been released by law enforcement or company spokespeople.
Heather Meikle, a spokeswoman with International Group Inc., the Ontario-based parent company for Intentional Wax Inc., said shipping operations have been halted at the plant located at the intersection of routes 46 and 446 in Farmers Valley.
“We felt it was the most prudent decision based on what had happened and obviously we want to deal with authorities at this point. It’s still an open file and we are not prepared to disclose,” Ms. Meikle said.
The plant, which produces petroleum-based waxes, has approximately 130 employees and operates 24 hours per day.
Operations there remain in “assessment mode,” Ms. Meikle said, adding, “we are still cooperating with authorities and we’re obviously very grateful there was only one injury and thankful to the community who has supported us.”
Ms. Meikle said the plant produces petroleum-based waxes but denied their flammability.
According to online EPA business profile, the presence of volatile chemicals, including ammonia and propane at the plant, require emergency response plans coordinated between plant officials, Local Emergency Planning Committees and emergency responders in the event of an industrial accident.
An area fire official who declined to be identified for this article confirmed the existence of rehearsed emergency drills and plans involving International Wax Inc. plant operations, but would not say whether those same procedures were used on Sunday.