Gas Explosion at CT Chemical Facility Rocks Neighborhood

Drone image courtesy of R. Scott Schwartz, Deputy Chief of the West Haven FD.

New Haven, CT – A gas explosion at a chemical storage and transport facility in the city rocked the area around Welton Street late Thursday morning, but no injuries were reported, city Fire Chief John Alston said.

A call came in at 11:29 a.m. that there was an explosion at the New Haven Chlor-Alkali building, a chemical storage and transport facility at 73 Welton St. There were two people in the building near the explosion who were treated at the scene and released.

The blast, which could be felt several miles away, had blown out part of an exterior sheet metal wall. Debris, including insulation, was scattered throughout the neighborhood, but the explosion did not result in a fire.

Amtrak service was delayed in the area while officials cleared debris from railroad tracks.

Authorities say the blast also ruptured a chemical tank inside the building, but the spillage was confined to a containment pit.

There was extensive damage to the rear of the building, where sodium bisulfite was being stored. Alston said a container with the chemical was ruptured in the explosion. Although the chemical is an irritant that is dangerous to inhale, Alston said there was no risk to the public. An investigation team was checking to see whether any other chemical was exposed to the open air.

The windows of a house located next to the building were shattered and the homes within 1,500 feet from the building were evacuated. Power was temporarily lost but was restored shortly after, Alston said.

The $20 million facility uses an environmentally-friendly process to make bleach, eliminating the use of chlorine gas. Chlor-Alkali also makes caustic soda and hydrochloric acid.