NH ball bearings plant explosion likely started in ‘acid room’

Environmental officials sampled catch basins for chemicals, but found no evidence of contamination.

February 12, 2014   by The Canadian Press

PETERBOROUGH, NH – A factory explosion that blew out windows and injured 15 people likely originated in a room where acid is used to treat the surface of ball bearings, but it could be weeks before the exact cause is known, investigators say.

The Monday afternoon blast at New Hampshire Ball Bearings Inc. shattered glass, dislodged ceiling tiles and damaged walls, though the building is stable enough for investigators to work inside.

The plant makes parts for the aerospace industry and employs 700 people. Company spokeswoman Kathy Gerrity said about 450 people would have been working at the time of the blast, which happened just after a 3:30 p.m. shift change. No one was in close proximity to the blast, Schultz said.

“It’s fortunate that more people weren’t injured,” he said. “When you have an explosion like that, it goes in every direction. It’s just a matter of what stops the explosion.”

Investigators probe explosion at NH ball bearings plant

Peterborough Fire Chief Joe Lenox said 14 people were injured. A spokesman for Monadnock Community Hospital said a 15th person was treated and released. Two people were transferred to other hospitals and the others were released by Monday night. Lenox said regular evacuation drills likely limited the number of people hurt.

“They’re on top of their game when it comes to safety at the plant,” he said.

State environmental officials sampled catch basins around the building to make sure no chemicals had leaked into the ground after the blast and found no evidence of contamination, Schultz said.

Richard Bardellini, the company’s vice-president of manufacturing, said once authorities determine the building is safe, work will resume in the undamaged parts of the building.

Founded in Peterborough in 1946, New Hampshire Ball Bearings was purchased in 1985 by the Japanese company Minebea and has its corporate headquarters in Chatsworth, Calif.

Asked about the company’s safety record, Bardellini described it as “excellent.”

©The Canadian Press

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