DAYTON - No explosion took place at Advanced Specialty Gases plant prior to a damaging July 30 blast, despite rumors to the contrary, said company President Michael Koonce.
"The rumors are simply untrue and unfounded," Koonce said.
Lyon County Commissioner Bob Milz said he heard rumors there had been an explosion at the plant prior to the July 30 explosion. "We need to investigate whether they have had a previous explosion," Milz told the Dayton board.
Koonce said there was an incident in March involving a burned-out fitting.
"The March incident was reported and investigated as required. Documentation is available," Koonce explained. "The proper investigative procedures were followed according to federal and state laws."
Koonce also said an employee who was outside the building at the time of the July 30 explosion was checked by a doctor following the incident, as required.
ASG is one of only five manufacturers of nitrogen trifluoride in the world. Nitrogen trifluoride is used as a cleaning and etching agent and is relatively nontoxic at room temperature.
The issue of concern to neighboring residents is the storing of hydrogen fluoride at the plant site. Exposure to hydrogen fluoride can cause severe respiratory damage.
According to Koonce, the July 30 explosion involved only nitrogen trifluoride during the distillation process. Hydrogen fluoride is not used in this part of the process and is not stored in that section of the plant.
"The blast did not threaten the hazardous materials. The hydrogen fluoride tank was never threatened. The emergency systems worked perfectly," he said
An independent engineering firm has been hired to investigate the incident.
"The firm, Exponent, is one of the best in the country. We provided access to all information regarding the firm and the chief (Central Lyon County Fire District Chief Bill Driscoll) gave his approval."
Attending the Dayton meeting, Driscoll repeated his opposition to ASG being located in the area.
"The process is so sophisticated, so unique, no one in Nevada is qualified to understand it," Driscoll said.
Koonce said Wednesday he must adhere to three agency programs: Process Safety Management (an OSHA program); Risk Management Program; and the Chemical Accident Prevention Program.
"We are monitored annually by the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection," he noted. "The county engaged Mark Zusy, NDEP supervisor of the Chemical Accident Prevention Branch, to review our process and at the current time, we are compliant with all."
Koonce confirmed he has applied for a building permit to repair the roof.
"We have been signed off at the county level and are waiting for the final sign-off by the fire department. We do not expect a problem with this, but we have not seen (an approval) yet," he said.