More details about the blow tank explosion that killed one worker at Terrace Bay Pulp Inc. in 2011 emerged as the company had its day in court on April 4. The company pleaded guilty to failing to take reasonable precautions, and has been fined $275,000 by the Ontario provincial court.
The explosion at the kraft pulp mill occurred on October 31, 2011, while a hairline crack in the wall of a steel blow tank was being welded by workers employed by a subcontractor. An investigation conducted by the Ontario Fire Marshal's Office confirmed the explosion originated within the tank as a result of existing hazardous substances being ignited.
The explosion caused the top section of the tank to be driven upward into the steel beams supporting the roof of the facility, creating a 30-foot hole in the roof and a debris field with a radius of about 300 feet.
TJ Berthelot, an employee of Terrace Bay Pulp who was involved in cleaning the tank, was killed and the sub-contractor workers required medical attention.
An investigation by the Ontario Ministry of Labour confirmed that welding repairs to the tank had been allowed to proceed before the tank had been rendered free of any hazardous substances.
The ministry's investigation also concluded that reasonable precautions relating to the planning and co-ordination of activities in preparing for the welding work on the tank were not taken by the mill.
Terrace Bay Pulp Inc. pleaded guilty to failing to take reasonable precautions in the circumstances and failing to ensure a tank was drained and cleaned or otherwise rendered free from any explosive, flammable or harmful substance before repairs or alterations were made.
In addition to the fine, the court imposed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. The surcharge is credited to a special provincial government fund to assist victims of crime.
A few months after the explosion, Terrace Bay Pulp Inc. ceased production and became insolvent. The mill was sold in 2012 to Aditya Birla Group, and restarted.