Chem Safety Board Finds Sugar Company Ignored Dangers Before Blast

"SAVANNAH, Ga. -- Imperial Sugar Co. and managers of its Georgia refinery ignored known dangers of explosive dust for decades before a chain of dust-fueled fireballs erupted at the plant last year and killed 14 people, investigators said in a report Thursday.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board, which investigates industrial accidents, said it found written warnings of explosive dust hazards in refinery memos from the 1960s and that the deaths likely could have been prevented by routine housekeeping.

The agency said near-misses over the years from small fires also failed to persuade corporate managers to take the threat seriously inside the nation's second-largest sugar refinery, located a few miles west of Savannah.

'The explosion at Imperial Sugar was entirely preventable, and the deaths and injuries that occurred here in February 2008 should not have happened,' John Bresland, the board's chairman, said at a news conference."

Russ Bynum reports for the Associated Press September 24, 2009.

Source: AP, 09/25/2009