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Treatment plant continues operations despite explosion

LEWISTON – An explosion at a wastewater treatment plant caused $3 million to $5 million in damages, but no one was injured and the plant is still able to operate, authorities said.

Capt. Tom Hatley of the Lewiston Fire Department said crews were dispatched Sunday at 7:45 a.m., minutes after what he said sounded like a sonic boom from the city’s north end.

“It pretty much rocked our world,” he told the Lewiston Tribune.

Damaged in the explosion was one 20-foot by 40-foot, one-story building that housed the controls for two digesting units that process solid waste. The plant has about 10 buildings, three digesting units, and settling ponds.

Dave Six, wastewater systems manager for the city, said one of the digesting units next to the damaged control building had not been operating for about 10 years. But he said the explosion took the second digester out of operation.

He said it appeared undamaged, though it will be examined.

He said a third digester, the largest at the facility, will now have to handle all the solid waste coming to the facility.

“Short term I think we’ll get along just fine,” he told the Associated Press on Monday. “We don’t know what several months will do to us.”

He said fire officials on Monday were trying to shore up the damaged building so that it could be inspected. He said a possible cause for the explosion was natural gas or methane gas.

“We’re really not sure at this point,” he said. “We’re thinking some kind of fumes. For the impact we saw, it has to be some type of gas.”

He said the strength of the explosion left steel rebar exposed in columns in the building.

The building is not normally staffed, but is checked twice a day, and had been checked about an hour before the explosion, he said.

“By my assessment, except for the pumps downstairs, it is a total loss,” said Chris Davies, the city’s public works director. “My concern is getting the building back on line.”


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