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Blue Rhino reopens; Safety upgrades won't be finished until Jan.

9:48 AM, Dec 17, 2013   |    comments
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TAVARES, Fla. -- Despite certain safety upgrades not being completed until mid January, the Blue Rhino plant in Lake County reopened Monday.

Thousands of 20-pound propane tanks exploded into the air on July 29 like gas bombs, injuring eight people. A fire also broke out at the Blue Rhino propane plant on County Road 448.

"Since that incident, we have focused on cooperating fully with investigations conducted by both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Florida State Fire Marshal, while cleaning up and making repairs to our facility," said Scott Brockelmeyer, spokesman for Ferrellgas, the parent company of Blue Rhino.

According to Brockelmeyer, the company has introduced various changes to ensure safety including the addition of two exit gates, one located along the facility's east fence line and the other along its west fence line.

Officials also reduced the storage capacity by 30 percent and increased spacing between rows of palleted tanks.

"This decrease in the density of tank storage will allow more visibility between rows and increase natural ventilation around the tanks," Brockelmeyer said.

The last change, which is expected to be completed by mid-January, is the process of automating four water cannons that face the plant's three 30,000-gallon propane tanks and the two water cannons at the offloading area within the facility.

"These automated fire-protection devices will trigger via infrared detectors," Brockelmeyer said.

The new system will have an independent horn and strobe notification process that is separate from those at the plant buildings. Brockelmeyer said it will tie into the alarm system that notifies the Tavares Fire Department and the alarm monitoring company.

Blue Rhino takes in used propane tanks, refurbishes them and then refills them with the gas.

About two-dozen employees were working on the assembly line when the explosion happened. The location of the explosions occurred away from most of the workers.


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