Investigators worked Monday to determine the cause of the Saturday explosion that ripped through a building at US Ecology’s hazardous waste site in Owyhee County, killing one person and injuring three.
The site remained closed as investigators with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality looked for clues. Spokesmen for the three agencies would say only that the explosion remains under investigation.
“There really aren’t any details available, because the investigations are pending,” US Ecology spokesman Dave Crumrine told the Idaho Statesman by phone Monday. “We want to make sure we get the facts straight and then we’ll be reporting on them as soon as we can.”
The Boise-based company processes lead, arsenic and other hazardous materials and turns them into non-hazardous residues. But the explosion did not cause a release of toxic fumes, and there were no evacuations, Crumrine said.
A photo taken by the Idaho Statesman on Tuesday from outside the site shows debris on top of the building where the explosion occurred. A berm prevented a photographer from seeing the entire building and the company would not allow him to enter the site.
The waste site is 10 miles west of Grand View, about 40 miles south of Boise. The building was used to process powdered magnesium, which is used in making structural metals, batteries, missiles and other products.
Powdered magnesium is highly flammable, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Finely dispersed particles in the air can explode if subjected to an electrostatic charge.
The explosion took place at 9:23 a.m. Saturday. A series of chemical reactions followed.
Monte “Alex” Green, 48, an equipment operator moving materials at the time, died from his injuries. He had worked at the site since 2014.
Three other employees were taken to area hospitals. They were treated and released Saturday, Crumrine said.
US Ecology officials have spoken with members of the Green family and the injured workers since Saturday. They also met with all of the company’s 53 Grand View employees on Monday.
“This was such a tragic event,” Crumrine said. “Our primary focus right now is making sure we’re helping out those who have been affected.”
Green’s son, Austin Green, 25, of Boise, described his father as someone who worked hard, helped others and was “a great dad.”
In a Facebook private message exchange, Austin Green told the Idaho Statesman that word of his father’s death came as a shock.
“I was at work the day it happened and got a call from my grandpa telling me it happening,” he said. “I was sad and crying.”
After the company learns more, it will work to make sure this kind of incident does not occur again at the Grand View site or at the company’s other facilities, Crumrine said.
“There is no ongoing threat to public health as a result of this accident,” Crumrine said.
The company says the Grand View site converts hazardous inorganic wastes into non-hazardous residues. That eliminates certain legal liabilities for hazardous waste and other long-term disposal risks that customers otherwise could face.
US Ecology operates in 22 states, Canada and Mexico, Crumrine said. One is at the Hanford nuclear reservation, in Washington’s Tri Cities.