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The explosion of a propane tank at a waste processing plant in Hampden on Thursday injured a worker and has forced the plant to temporarily shut down.
The propane tank came into the Coastal Resources of Maine plant with a delivery of household trash and exploded as it made its way through the plant’s processing equipment, said Shelby Wright, Coastal Resources’ director of community services.
The tank still had fuel in it, and the puncture caused a fireball that damaged the processing equipment. The Hampden Fire Department “had the fire contained and put out relatively quickly,” Wright said.
The explosion affected two workers who were nearby, and one suffered minor injuries, she said.
“It could have been a fair deal worse than it actually was,” Wright said. “We’re very lucky that it wasn’t worse.”
Propane tanks are considered household hazardous waste, and they are not allowed in the municipal waste stream. Wright encouraged residents to check with their local town offices or transfer stations to find out how they should dispose of hazardous waste in their areas.
“It’s a common material that needs to be specially disposed of,” Wright said.
The explosion could have happened at any point in the waste handling process, she said.
“It could have happened in the sanitation truck itself. In processing, it could have happened at any point on the line,” she said. “It made it through the line and got to a place where it made contact and was punctured, and it exploded.”
The plant, which opened at full capacity earlier this year, is shut down while Coastal Resources assesses the damage and makes needed repairs. While the plant is shut down, waste will instead go to landfills.
It’s too soon to estimate the cost of repairs or when the processing plant will reopen, Wright said.
“As soon as we’ve made the necessary repairs, we will be operational,” she said.