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IPL assessed $214,200 penalty in plant explosion

February 11, 2013

Indianapolis Power & Light Co. faces $214,200 in civil penalties stemming from an August explosion at its Harding Street generating station that injured two workers.

The Indiana Department of Labor issued the penalties on Jan. 30 after investigating conditions at a coal pulverizing mill at Harding Unit 7 on the city’s southwest side.

A mechanical failure involving a fan on Aug. 6 caused the unit to shut down while running at full power, also idling coal pulverizing equipment containing combustible coal dust. 

Before restart, workers were dispatched to remove excessive dust, but the company did not verify that potential sources of ignition were present, the state alleges.

IPL brought in an outside contractor, SSI Services, to clean the pulverizing mills. However, IPL “did not effectively monitor and assure that SSI used and followed recognized safety procedures and practices when disturbing the coal dust/powder,” the violation states.

The agency also cited broken pressure switches, and said workers didn’t have appropriate flame-resistant clothing.

One worker suffered burns after coal dust ignited at the plant. Another suffered a broken arm.

IPL said it is reviewing the safety orders.

“We will be working with the Indiana Department of Labor to remedy the alleged violations. This is a very unfortunate event and is unacceptable to us. We will utilize all resources we can to assure that this does not happen again,” said Greg Fennig, vice president of community relations at IPL.

Explosions involving coal dust at electric generating plants aren’t unheard of. On average, there are 11 dust fires or explosions each year at U.S. power plants, according to Houston-based Powder River Basin Coal Users’ Group.

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