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An energy plant in Shakopee, Minnesota experienced an explosion on April 24, according to CBS affiliate WCCO. At approximately 12:30 p.m., an explosion was reported at Koda Energy plant, a biomass facility that produces malt from oat hulls and wood chips. The explosion resulted in a fire that burned on through the next morning.
Dozens of firefighters were called to the scene to extinguish the flames at the Koda Energy plant as company-wide evacuations took place. Seven employees were on site and no injuries were sustained due to the quick response and fire alarm systems in place.
Soon after the explosion, the city of Shakopee asked all residents within a one mile radius of the plant to remain indoors until the danger had passed. Residents were given the all-clear by 3 p.m. and were told that there were no hazardous materials in the air that posed any threat to locals.
"I heard a very loud boom, a huge explosion followed by a huge fireball," said nearby resident Jolene Tesch. "With all the stuff that's been going on with the news … it was scary."
The three-alarm fire caused significant damage to two fuel silos, a conveyor system, and a truck unloading dock. The fire in the silos was contained and then left to smolder itself out, local ABC affiliate KTSP reported. The cause of the explosion is unknown, and is now under investigation. Koda Energy officials have not yet announced when operations are due to resume at the plant.
Dangers of malt exposure
Residents of Shakopee were asked to stay inside until tests had been done to check for toxic levels of malt in the air. Right Diagnosis explains that exposure to the dangerous substance through the inhalation of airborne malt particles contaminated with fungus can result in symptoms such as shortness of breath, fatigue and lung inflammation.
Symptoms vary in severity depending on the duration of exposure, but those who work in malt plants are in particular danger of contracting what is known as "malt worker's disease," which can result in prolonged symptoms and may eventually lead to respiratory failure in the most severe cases.
The use of toxic gas detectors can help alert workers and employees to exposure levels to prevent injury and long-term effects.
Industrial Safety News brought to you by Safety Systems Technology, Inc., leaders in fire and gas detection systems.