Despite Explosion and Investigation, Sun Edison Plant Quickly Reopens

It’s been five days since a leak caused an explosion at a chemical plant in Pasadena, Texas.

By Rhonda FanningOctober 7, 2015 9:47 am

Four workers were injured in a blast at the Sun Edison chemical plant in Pasadena,  on October 2. All survived. But now, with the cause of the accident still under investigation, the plant will resume operations sometime before the end of the week.

Mark Collette, who has been covering the story for the Houston Chronicle, says the company makes silicon wafers for the semiconductors found in solar panels.

“To make those, you’ve got to use a few very corrosive, very flammable gases that are hazardous to health,” he says. “What they believe happened is that workers doing maintenance in one section of the plant were working and one of the valves leaked a released a gas called silane.”

Silane is a silicone-based gas that tends to explode when released into the air. Although an investigation by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration is underway, the agency does not have the jurisdiction close down businesses.

“It’s really up to the company to decide if they’re ready to go or not,” Collette says.

Given that four workers were hospitalized, one of which will require “long term” care, Collette says he hopes they have done their due diligence to keep workers safe now that the factory has reopened.

“You wonder if they’ve had enough time to do all the analysis that needs to be done to make sure that there’s not something about their processes or their culture,” he says, “or their procedures that need to be changed in order to protect the safety of the workers as well as the community.”