Petone Factory Blast Call for Shutdown
Update 2 May
Neighbours of battery-recyclers Exide Technologies want it shut down after an explosion shattered windows and hurled broken glass across the footpath.
Fire crews were called to the Petone factory after the blast, caused by molten slag coming into contact with water.
Slag contains lead, tin, antimony, arsenic, calcium and selenium.
Greater Wellington regional council environmental regulation manager Al Cross said staff would check monitoring equipment to see if lead dust was blown out of the plant.
Under its resource consent the company must provide monthly air sampling data.
Nearby workers told of a rumbling sound, then a loud boom just before 12.30pm yesterday.
Katy Evans said she heard what sounded like an earthquake.
“All of a sudden there was an explosion and the breaking of glass. We ran out, dialling 111 as we went to see that the factory had blown out windows and there was smoke coming from some of them.”
The blast, in the furnace room, smashed windows and twisted aluminum framing.
Kristiane Discombe, from Chalmers Building Maintenance next-door to Exide, was almost hit by planks knocked off a wall.
“It felt like an earthquake with the whole building shaking. I jumped and bolted.”
Two nearby Exide staff members were unhurt.
Business owner Aaron Chalmers has been been so worried about heat coming off the Exide building he has monitored it with a thermal imaging camera.
A shared wall reached 100 degrees in places, he said.
“It’s disgusting this has happened, it’s got to be shut down.”
Richard Whiteside, a nearby property manager, said the blast could have killed someone.
“It’s pure luck. There’s a bus stop just 20 metres away. It’s just not appropriate where it is.”
Seaview station officer Gary Stallard said firefighters wearing breathing gear went inside the building. The explosion was confined to its front.
Exide has twice been convicted for illegal lead discharges beyond court-imposed health limits designed to protect local residents, and was fined $30,000 last year.
The limits were imposed after Regional Public Health said in 2005 long-term exposure to Exide’s lead was a health risk to pregnant women and young children.
Spokesman Mark Unsworth said there had been no danger to the public from yesterday’s blast.
The furnace had been shut down.
“Exide will continue to work with authorities as the full investigation is undertaken, and expects to be fully operational again within 24 hours.”
Hutt South MP Trevor Mallard said the battery plant “should just close”.
“I think it should not have a long-term future, and this might be a chance to bring that forward.”
A Labour Department spokesman said it was investigating the accident.
Emergency services are at a Lower Hutt battery factory after a boiler exploded.
The blast happened at the Exide Technologies factory in Petone, south of Lower Hutt.
Police said the blast appeared to have come from a furnace.
Fire communications spokeswoman Linda Beets said the explosion blew out windows in buildings near-by.
She said no injuries were caused by the explosion.
Ms Beets said police and the Labour Department were investigating the cause of the explosion and the regional council was testing to see if the explosion had caused any air pollution.