Plant President Charged in Explosion

Federal authorities charged the president of an industrial plant\r\ndestroyed by a deadly explosion with ignoring several safety warnings.

Federal authorities charged the president of an industrial plant destroyed by a deadly explosion with ignoring several warnings that a process for making an explosive cleaning material for computer chips was unsafe.

The fatal explosion on Feb. 19, 1999 at Concept Sciences Inc. killed four employees and a man working in an adjacent building. Two other workers were injured.

The indictment announced Thursday said that during a test of the process less than a month before the blast, a chemist wrote in a laboratory notebook the explosive cleaning material used for the computer chips caused an explosion.

The 12-count indictment charges Irl "Chip" Ward, president of CSI in Allentown, Pa., with violating OSHA standards.

The explosion occurred in a 2,500-gallon fiberglass reinforced charge tank containing about 750 pounds of hydroxylamine.

OSHA officials could not say what ignited the tank, since the building was destroyed.

Ward faces a maximum of 24 months in prison, a $3 million fine and one year of probation.

The indictment also alleges that Ward ignored several warnings, including one from Ashland Chemical Co., a potential customer.

The company said in a February 1998 report that the chemical "should not be distilled or heated to dryness yet this is what CSI intends to do," the "the distillation scheme that CSI is planning to use probably will not work," and "this building is not a good location for a chemical process."

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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