UPDATED: Coralville explosion injures one - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

UPDATED: Coralville explosion injures one


CORALVILLE (KWWL) -- An investigation continues into an explosion at the Coralville waste water treatment plant.  The explosion shook parts of the city Monday morning. 

Sean Pearl was working at a nearby business when he heard a large boom.

"I went running outside and saw a very large mushroom cloud over the water plant.  There's been cranes and things over there working so I wasn't sure if it was meant to be done or not.  But it was very apparent when all the ambulance and cop cars came by that it wasn't supposed to be done that way," Pearl said.

Emergency officials say the 1.5 million gallon tank was full of human waste sludge.  And workers were prepping to remove that sludge, as they do each year.  It's believed that in the process, one worker was on the roof trying to open a frozen hatch door with a blow torch when it ignited methane gas inside the tank.

"What happens is on the top, methane gas seeps out of that, and because it was such a small space, it was pushed to the top of the ceiling.  And where he was, was susceptible to an explosion," said Coralville Fire Chief Dave Stannard.

The explosion blew the worker off of the tank, which may have been a good thing since the roof collapsed into the pit below.

"Had he not been blown off the building, he'd have been in the pit, which would've made rescue much more difficult," Chief Stannard said.

Still, as a result of the blast, the worker did receive serious injuries, mostly to his legs.  His condition is not thought to be life-threatening.  There were no direct witnesses to the explosion.  So once he recovers, that worker might be able to shed more light on just what happened.

The exact amount of damage to the tank is unknown.  But engineers will be taking a look at it soon to see if it's structurally sound so that the sludge can be removed.

KWWL Reporter:  Kera Mashek



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