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Garland Fire’s Cause Still Under Investigation

(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Stephanie Lucero
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GARLAND (CBSDFW.COM) - It has been three days since a spectacular explosion and fire at a chemical plant in Garland, and investigators are not any closer to determining what sparked the blast. The blaze at the plant owned by Nexeo Solutions forced evacuations as workers scrambled for safety.

State and federal investigators will be back in Garland on Monday, trying to determine what caused the massive fire that started shortly before 3:30 p.m. on Friday. Black smoke billowed into the sky for hours and could even be seen from DFW International Airport, while employees of the Nexeo Solutions plant ran to safety. People at nearby businesses were also evacuated. No injuries were reported.

It took several hours for firefighters to calm the blaze.

Nexeo Solutions offers environmental services. The plant in Garland distributes chemicals, plastics and composites. A company executive said that a rail-car containing methanol was being unloaded when the explosion took place. Methanol is a highly flammable and toxic wood alcohol.

According to a report obtained from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the Nexeo Solutions plant in Garland had been cited four times in 2011 for infractions ranging from how the company was handling industrial waste to a lack of training and inspections.

Records from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration indicate that the Nexeo Solutions plant in Tewksbury, Massachussets was cited earlier this year for problems with chemical storage and the potential for explosion.

“The inspection did find that organic peroxides were stored near flammable liquids causing a fire hazard to employees,” said Ted Fitzgerald of the OSHA office in Massachusetts. “The company accepted the citations, corrected the hazards, and paid a fine of $4,500.” The company says it took corrective action after the inspection.

Nexeo says thye are is currently cooperating with authorities to determine the exact cause of Friday’s fire. That investigation is expected to take up to six months.

The company released the following statement when contacted about the organization’s safety record. “Nexeo Solutions takes safety very seriously. After the citation, we took corrective actions to ensure we met OSHA regulations.”

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