Tonawanda Coke backpedals, says three were injured in Jan. 31 blast - The Buffalo News

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Tonawanda Coke backpedals, says three were injured in Jan. 31 blast

When an explosion occurred inside the embattled Tonawanda Coke plant Jan. 31, no injuries were reported. The company now says three workers were injured.

On Wednesday, the plant issued a clarifying statement acknowledging three individuals were harmed and evaluated because of the explosion.

Tonawanda Coke’s report said a full-time employee was blown to the ground by the explosion but didn’t need medical treatment. Another full-time employee experienced a possible first-degree burn on one side of his face and suffered from dust inhalation. He was evaluated and given first-aid treatment by an on-site nurse and returned to work the same day.

A full-time temporary worker who had his face and eyes covered with dust was sent by the nurse to an off-site medical facility for treatment. He returned to work Feb. 3.

The report also noted plant operators failed to recognize evidence of moisture in the lines of the facility’s air dryer system on a checklist during the course of routine monitoring. The presence of moisture in extremely cold temperatures can lead to frozen lines and blockages, and was the root cause of the accident, the company contends.

Tonawanda Coke said it will now switch to a new and revised facility checklist, has scheduled retraining for the byproduct area operators and foreman, and will conduct an evaluation of further programmatic safety systems to avoid a future accident.

The company has been under intense scrutiny in recent years by federal officials for environmental and public health violations.

Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, and the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York have called for a federal investigation into the explosion at the plant on River Road in the Town of Tonawanda, where high-quality foundry coke is made for steel manufacturing.


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