The New York Times has reported a coal power plant explosion in Hillsborough
County, FL that occurred just before 4:20 pm yesterday. The explosion
occurred at Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach near Tampa, run by
Tampa Electric—a child company of TECO Energy. The explosion has
killed 2 people and left 4 people with life-threatening injuries. All
4 of the injured were transported to Tampa General Hospital—two
of them by helicopter, two by ground ambulance.
The explosion happened while the workers were doing “routine maintenance”
on a slag tank on the bottom of a boiler. “Slag” is the mixture
formed when burned coal is mixed with cold water—when cooled, the
slag can be resold as an abrasive (used in roofing and sandblasting).
Newly-formed slag can be over 1,000 degrees. Two of the workers declared
dead on the scene were covered in the material.
There has been no public information about the workers who have been injured
or killed. All that’s been revealed is that the 6 workers included
1 plant worker and 5 contractors. At 2 pm local time, Tampa Electric has
schedule a news conference to answer additional questions. OSHA has not
provided comment on the incident other than to say that the investigation—which
could take up to six months—will be “pretty complex.”
The president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers,
a local union, will be assisting with the investigation as well.
Previous Incidents of Negligence from Tampa Electric
OSHA has previously investigated a Tampa Electric plant explosion before.
In 1999, OSHA levied a $25,200 fine against the company for safety violations
at Gannon Power Station, which is also in Hillsborough County. That explosion
led to the death of 3 workers and injured over a dozen more. Gannon Power
Station now operates under a different name.
The following year, Big Bend Power Station was fined $3,375 for safety
concerns regarding how they handle their coal byproducts, and an additional
$7,000 in connection with an electrocution incident.
Our hearts go out to the workers and their families—we hope they
hear clear answers soon.