AUGUSTA, Maine — A Farmington nonprofit whose building was leveled in a deadly September explosion caused by a massive propane leak has been fined by federal regulators alongside a contracting company for “serious” safety violations linked to the blast.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined LEAP, Inc., $12,145 for one violation of “general safety and health provisions,” according to the agency’s website. Techno Metal Post Maine, LLC, a Manchester company that installed a post that pierced an underground propane line and caused the leak, faces a $4,048 fine for a similar violation.
The fines were first reported by the Sun Journal. The explosion killed Farmington fire Capt. Michael Bell, injured seven other people, destroyed nearby homes, scattered debris for more than a mile and was reported to be heard as far away as Livermore, more than 30 miles away.
Both were fined because they did not “initiate and maintain programs” for frequent and regular inspections of the job site, material and equipment, according to OSHA’s citations. They also failed to ensure a “competent person” inspected the job site prior to the post’s installation.
The fines were issued last week after OSHA completed separate investigations into each company. Neither have paid the fines. Other OSHA investigations into companies C.N. Brown, which filled the propane tank, and Farmington-based Cornerstone Plumbing & Heating are still ongoing. Both companies have 15 business days to contest the fines.
The Maine fire marshal’s office confirmed in January that the explosion occurred after Techno Metal Post installed multiple 10-foot posts drilled into the ground about 5 feet away from the building to protect an outdoor air conditioning unit next to the building, six days before the explosion.
A propane line buried about 3 feet underneath the parking lot that connected the propane tank to the building was pierced by a part of one of the posts that allowed it to be drilled into the ground Techno Metal Post was found to have possibly violated “Dig Safe” laws by Maine Public Utilities Commission staff in December.
The tank had been filled the Friday before the explosion on Monday, Sept. 16, when LEAP maintenance supervisor Larry Lord reported the smell of gas early in the morning. He got workers out of the building before calling for emergency personnel. Lord and several firefighters were injured in the explosion. Lord was moved to a rehab facility last month.
Dan Kagan, a lawyer with Lewiston firm Berman and Simmons representing Lord, said he expects additional investigative reports in the coming days. LEAP executive director Darryl Wood declined to comment and referred a reporter to lawyer Erin Murphy of the Waterville firm Marden, Dubord, Bernier and Stevens. She did not respond to messages requesting comment.