NBC Right Now spoke with a former boss at the Williams plant in Plymouth. He thinks the explosion was never in danger of becoming a much bigger catastrophe.
PLYMOUTH, WA – NBC Right Now spoke with a former boss at the Williams plant in Plymouth, who tells us he thinks the explosion was never in danger of becoming a much bigger catastrophe.
As the investigation into Monday's explosion continues we are left with many questions. NBC Right Now is getting answers to concerns like ‘How could those active flames so close to the leaking tank not ignite and explode?'
Homer Stevens was actually the plant's first superintendent. He ran the Williams facility at Plymouth for over a decade before retiring back in the 80's. We met with him and examined our aerial shots of the burning plant. He says this is something he never thought he would see.
"Nothing like this, no," explained Stevens when we asked if anything like Monday's explosion had happened before. He has not worked at the Williams plant for years, but he says the storage process of the gas has not changed much.
"It's like a big thermos bottle. There's an outer tank and an inner tank and there's 5.5 feet of insulation between those two."
Following the explosion shrapnel flew into the tank causing natural gas in a liquid form to leak. Stevens says there are plenty of safety features built in to prevent further catastrophe.
"If the tank just opened up, the liquid would simply go into that big burm and vapor off."
Essentially a giant catch basin surrounds the plant. Hypothetically the liquid would be caught and safely dissipate into the air before it could ignite.
"It can't explode, this gas?" we asked,
"And why is that?"
"Well because it's a minus 260 degree Fahrenheit."
Stevens explains it is much more dangerous when that cold liquid becomes a gas. Yesterday's explosion near the compressor that keeps the gas cold did injure five workers, including Mike Yunker who was taken to a Portland Hospital for burn treatment. He also happens to be a good friend of Stevens.
"(I was) concerned about the employees more than anything. Mechanics can be fixed; people can't sometimes."
After his years of running the plant, Stevens says seeing the images of the aftermath and what the workers were dealing with nearly broke his heart.
"They're almost family. I hated to see it that's for sure."
While Stevens firmly believes there was never a chance of a second or bigger explosion from the gas, the cause of that first explosion at the plant is still under investigation. NBC Right Now will keep you updated on all of the latest as the details are revealed.