Goshen News, Goshen, IN

March 24, 2014

UPDATE: No one hurt in methane explosion in Goshen this morning

By ROGER SCHNEIDER
THE GOSHEN NEWS

GOSHEN — A methane explosion at the Goshen Wastewater Treatment Plant early Monday pushed out a concrete block and brick wall, shattered windows and left city officials pondering the cause.
City utility Engineer Dustin Sailor said he heard the blast at 4:59 a.m. from his north side home.
“I heard it. I thought a transformer blew,” Sailor said as he looked over the damaged building.
The blast left a concrete and brick wall on the north side of the sludge thickening room cracked and leaning about 6 inches to the north. A window was blown open and its heavy glass was cracked in a circular pattern. At the back of the building a heavy steel, roll-up door covering the loading access was buckled and blown out. Nearby, a window on the digester building was blown in.
Sailor speculated that methane, perhaps from the nearby digester plant, where sewage is broken down for treatment, seeped into the sludge thickening room. In that room a machine moves a conveyor belt and extracts water from the sludge, according to Sailor. The extracted water is pumped back to the digester plant. The initial theory is that methane entered the sludge thickening room through pipes that connect the two buildings.
“It’s our belief that methane came up and filled the room and something ignited the methane,” Sailor said.
The explosion knocked out the control panel for the room’s machinery, but the wastewater plant operation was not impacted, according to Sailor.
“I just thank God nobody was here at the time,” said Charlie Riggs, plant maintenance manager as he looked around the damaged room. Above him the plastic coverings of fluorescent lights were hanging in contorted and melted shapes.
Riggs said in the past, someone was at the plant 24/7 to monitor equipment, including the sludge thickener machinery. But in October the plant was automated and electronic sensors now send a signal to employees if something is wrong, and they then respond.
“I come and go out of the building all the time,” Riggs said. “We are lucky nobody was here.”
Sailor said the city’s insurance company has been contacted and he will work with the adjuster to determine what can be salvaged and what needs to be replaced.