Alaska plant explosion likely caused by fishmeal dust

Fishmeal dust is the likely culprit in a major explosion at Westward Seafoods in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, U.S.A. on 19 September.

Westward’s seafood processing plant was severely damaged by the explosion, which Mike Holman, director of Unalaska's Department of Public Safety, said was likely caused by the ignition of fine fishmeal dust, Alaska Dispatch News reported.

An undetermined ignition source likely detonated dust from the production of fishmeal, Holman said. However, the incident is still under investigation.

Westward Seafoods, a division of major Japanese supplier Maruha Nichiro, processes 254 million pounds of cod, crab, halibut and other seafood in Dutch Harbor.

While the plant's sprinkler system extinguished the resulting fire before emergency crews arrived, it contributed to damages beyond the USD 100,000 (EUR 89,309) estimate first reported after the fire.

Holman said there were employees inside the building at the time of the explosion, but none were injured. The plant is currently closed because of the extent of the damage.
"There's quite a bit of damage inside the building — some of the pipes erupted, and one of the doors was blown off its hinges into a container," Holman said.

However, the fishmeal plant isn’t needed in any current fishery openings, according to Westward Seafoods President Mark Johanson. He is optimistic that the plant will be fully operational in time for the next pollock season, beginning in January 2017.


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