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Explosion rocks landfill; no injuries, two close calls

An explosion rocked the building housing the new pyrolisys operation at the Cedar Grove Landfill Tuesday morning, causing “significant damage” but no injuries. Seaborn Crosby, who owns the patent for the technology being used by the Lamar County Regional Solid Waste Authority, said the explosion occurred during routine maintenance when the machine was not processing material. ”The unit was not running at the time of the explosion. The unit has been running fantastically but this incident has raised a red flag that we need to ensure we have all safety measures in place for maintenance,” he said. “This was not a part of the process but was a maintenance and human error.” The damages to the machinery and building are expected to be around $15,000 to $20,000. The machinery was insured, however, and should be operational again in 4 to 8 weeks. Crosby said the explosion felt like a sonic boom and shot the hopper, which was not properly purged of residual gases to the building’s ceiling. ”I was right outside the building’s door. It was a deep sound, like a sonic boom. The kind of explosion you can feel,” he said. “The hopper came up and hit what was left of the ceiling and came right back down and landed upside down. The contractor was in the building on the backside of the forklift when the hopper exploded.” County commission chairman Jay Matthews responded immediately after the explosion and said one wall of the building was blown out. “It was a pretty good-sized blast. There is significant damage. We are thankful no one was hurt,” Matthews said. County commissioner Nancy Thrash was also went to the scene and said an investigation would be launched to see what caused the explosion. Lamar County firefighters responded and extinguished some minor fires around the blast site. Initial indications are there was some sort of gas buildup in the building that a spark ignited. The state-of-the art pyrolisys operation was touted as a method of generating fuels from the landfill, creating revenue and increasing landfill life indefinitely. This additional coverage is from S. Heather Duncan of The Macon Telegraph: Seaborn Crosby, who owns the patent for the technology being used by the Lamar County Regional Solid Waste Authority, was one of two people fleeing the building when the explosion caused part of a hopper to blow through the roof into the air. ’It felt like a sonic boom,’ said Crosby, whose company Paradigm Technologies is based in Macon. Crosby’s company has been partnering for more than two years with the authority on developing the technology, which superheats shredded garbage to turn it into various liquid and vapor fuels such as propane and butane. Crosby said the explosion was caused by a contractor testing the hopper equipment where the garbage is deposited before it enters the heating system. The contractor skipped a step in the process that involved purging leftover gas before conducting a pressure test. Crosby said when he walked in and saw what the contractor was doing, he asked whether the gas had been purged first. When the man didn’t answer, Crosby told him they needed to evacuate. Seconds later, the explosion occurred, he said. The contractor tripped and fell but was shielded by a fork-lift, Crosby said. Crosby said the contractor’s company has taken responsibility for the accident and has said it would cover the costs. He declined to name the Savannah-based company. Crosby said the hopper, a bay of the building, the roof and some siding will need to be replaced, but other equipment appears does not see to be damaged. Crosby said Lamar County and the Solid Waste Authority are preparing to issue bonds in September to bring the pyrolisys process up to commercial scale, with a goal of keeping 80 percent of the county’s waste out of the authority’s Cedar Grove Landfill. He said he doesn’t think the explosion will affect the overall project. But he added, ‘We’re going to need to remove some human error capability from the process.’

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