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I-Team: Newburyport plant that exploded has history of safety violations

I-Team: Newburyport plant that exploded has history of safety violations
I-Team: Newburyport plant that exploded has history of safety violations 02:29

NEWBURYPORT - A worker was killed in an explosion at a chemical facility in Newburyport early Thursday morning.

The I-Team learned the Department of Fire Services hazmat team and the state Department of Environmental Protection are on the scene conducting air monitoring and collecting air samples for analysis. The DEP says so far, the results do not show any evidence of significant concern.

From SkyEye you can clearly see the widespread damage from the explosion that rocked the Seqens chemical processing plant and ripped off part of the roof.

This was the third hazmat emergency at the Newburyport facility in the last few years.

Newburyport Seqens explosion
An explosion heavily damaged Seqens in Newburyport CBS Boston

In February 2020, a chemical blast led to a significant emergency response and in June of 2021, the plant was temporarily shut down after a chemical reaction led to a fire. In those cases, and several others, OSHA and the EPA stepped in and fined the company for what it called a number of serious violations.

In 2015, the company was fined more than $44,000 finding workers were exposed to chemical. That fine was later reduced to just over $23,000

In 2019, a fine of more than $86,000 was levied for violations including management of highly hazardous chemicals. That fine reduced to $50,000.

Also, in 2019, the company settled an inspection case with the EPA. That settlement included an agreement to pay a $50,000 fine, fund more than $150,000 in projects to protect the environment and install emissions monitoring systems.

In 2020, the company was again fined more than $50,000 for workers' exposure to hazardous chemicals. That fine reduced to $28,000

In 2021, there was a fine of $18,000 for a serious safety violation. That penalty was reduced to $8,000.

The explosion at the Seqens pharmaceutical manufacturing company in Newburyport, May 4, 2023. Courtesy Ish/ Advanced Diesel Repair via CNN

In a statement the company tells the I-Team:

The PCI Synthesis facility in Newburyport, MA reported an accident on May 4 2023 at approximately 1:00 a.m.

The First Responders arrived quickly on site and helped in securing the safety of four employees, who have been released from area hospitals with no injuries. But one of our valued employees remained unaccounted for.

We are deeply saddened to report that a long time member of our PCI family died during the accident. The entire group and its employees are extremely shocked by this accident. At this tragic moment, all our thoughts and prayers are with our friend and colleague and his family during this difficult time.

The safety of our employees has always been, and continues to be, our top priority. We strive to follow best practices and regulatory guidelines, and have implemented safety protocols and procedures to prevent incidents like this from occurring.

We are fully committed to working closely with the authorities and relevant agencies to determine the cause of the incident.

Again, we want to thank the First Responders for their quick work and renew our support for the family. We will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available. 

OSHA tells the I-Team the fines were reduced as part of a settlement with the company. The DEP says it continues to monitor the situation.

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