Equipment failure blamed for ethanol plant explosion in Hopewell

By Nicole Bell - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

HOPEWELL, VA (WWBT) - Equipment failure is now being blamed for the explosion at an ethanol plant in Hopewell.

It happened late Wednesday night at the Appomattox Bio Energy Plant which is located just off 6th Street. Neighbors living just blocks away from the building tell us they could feel a rumble.

The company that owns the plant, Osage Bio Energy, says the community was never in danger and calls the small explosion isolated. Some residents say they knew something like this would happen at the plant.

City Councilman Curtis Harris has always voiced opposition to the ethanol plant being built in his ward.

"Some of the areas I was concerned about, such as safety, is coming to pass. I'm concerned it could happen again on a larger scale," said Harris.

The Appomattox Bio Energy Plant just began producing ethanol last month.

"We had some vapors back-up and the vapors were in a device that has a burner in it and so the vapors ignited," said company spokesperson, John Warren.

The bang rattled residents and homes.

"It sounds like a car hit the house. Everyone came out in their yards because the whole house shook. It felt like somebody ran into the house," said William Dean.

Multiple investigations are now underway.

"There was never any danger to the local community. Everything was contained and followed up on rapidly," said Warren.

Harris hopes the explosion serves as a wake-up call.

"It's in my backyard and I don't want it in my backyard," said Harris.

A portion of the plant has been temporarily shutdown because of the explosion. Osage Bio Energy says safety is first and the company is working to fix the issue to help ensure something like this doesn't happen again.

The plant was highly scrutinized during construction when a builder found contaminated soil on the site. It is the only commercial plant in the country to make ethanol from barley.

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