NEW DETAILS: Investigation into explosion at CFU plant continues

2013-08-20T20:45:00Z 2013-09-17T15:54:07Z NEW DETAILS: Investigation into explosion at CFU plant continuesBy JEFF REINITZ, jeff.reinitz@wcfcourier.com Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa --- It could be awhile before officials are able to determined what set off an explosion that damaged a power station Monday.

Betty Zeman, public information officer for Cedar Falls Utilities said the investigation into the blast could take days.

CFU staff is working with outside consultants as part of the probe into the accident, and utility officials will determine how to repair or replace the facility in the 2500 block of West 27th Street.

The explosion happened at about 9:50 a.m. Monday while workers were starting a natural gas combustion turbine as part of an annual test of the station, Two employees were inside but weren’t injured.

Damage was limited to the building, and other CFU buildings on the site weren’t damaged.

The station is used to generate electricity only during times of peak power demands or in emergencies.

“While we don’t use them as a daily source of electricity, our gas combustion turbines are an important reliability asset for our customers,” said CFU General Manager Jim Krieg. “For example, in 2007 high capacity transmission lines that bring power to Black Hawk County were flattened by an ice storm. Local generating assets like our gas turbines made it possible for us to keep the lights on.”

The unit was installed in 2000, and in a typical year the unit runs 10 to 15 times.

Earlier: No one hurt after explosion near UNI


3:30 p.m. (Monday) - CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — Two utility workers escaped injury after a power-generating plant blew up while they were testing it Monday morning.

Steve Balthazor and Kevin DeSerano were at control panels for the No. 2 gas combustion turbine at 2506. W. 27th St. on the outskirts of Cedar Falls around 9:45 a.m. when the blast tore apart a section of the building, according to firefighters and CFU officials.

“Just about everybody in town called it in ... I was sitting in City Hall in the mayor’s conference room, and it shook the building,” said John Schilling, chief of Cedar Falls Fire Rescue.

City Hall is about three miles from the CFU facility.

“It took out about half the power-generating portion of the (CFU) building ... There were no signs of fire, just signs of a large explosion. The two people who were inside the building weren’t hurt. They were treated and evaluated by the paramedics and refused transport,” Schilling said.

Balthazor and DeSerano, full-time CFU workers who are normally stationed at another plant, were wearing hearing protection because of normal noise in the West 27th Street facility, said Betty Zeman, CFU’s public information officer.

There were no fires or gas leaks at the damaged building, Schilling said.

He said no debris from the explosion left the site, which is surrounded by a chain-link fence, and windows in neighboring buildings were intact. Other structures on the site, including a second turbine building and two above-ground fuel oil tanks, weren’t damaged, Zeman said.

“We were told it wouldn’t effect the power-generating capabilities for this city, even with the higher heat coming up this week,” Schilling said.

The cause of the explosion hasn’t been determined.

Zeman said the site is a backup facility and only used during days with peak power demand or during emergencies.

“It’s not a unit that’s used very often, but when you need it, you really need it,” she said.

She said the accident happened during a mandatory annual “urge test” at the facility.

“Basically what you are doing is confirming the capacity of the unit ... That’s a routine thing done once a year,” she said.

The employees were conducting a startup of the gas turbine as part of the test when the explosion happened.

A diesel engine starts up the equipment, and then natural gas is injected and burned to produce electricity, Zeman said. She said the accident happened sometime after the natural gas injection had begun.

Explosion reported near UNI campus


11:05 a.m. (Monday) - CEDAR FALLS —No injuries were reported after a power generating station exploded on the outskirts of Cedar Falls this morning.

Two Cedar Falls Utilities workers were inside the building at 2506 W. 27th St. when the blast damaged the facility, said Fire Chief John Schilling. He said the two were examined by paramedics and released at the scene.

The cause of the explosion hasn’t been determined, but Shilling said the blast leveled about half of the building.

The explosion happened at about 10 a.m. and was heard across the city. Schilling said he heard the noise from city hall downtown.

He said the accident won’t effect power to the city.

Schilling said there was no debris outside the site, and windows in neighboring buildings were intact.

Betty Zeman, a CFU spokeswoman, said the site is a backup facility and only used during days with peak power demand or during emergencies. This morning, the two workers — Steve Balthazor and Kevin DeSerano — were undertaking a required annual “urge test” on the No. 2 gas combustion turbine when the explosion occurred.

They were at a control panel when the blast occurred in another part of the building, she said. She said they were wearing hearing protection because of normal noise in the facility.

She said there were no issues with gas leaks.

UPDATED 10:55 a.m.

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — No injuries were reported after a power generating station exploded on the outskirts of Cedar Falls this morning.

Two Cedar Falls Utilities workers were inside the building at 2506 W. 27th St. when the blast damaged the facility, said Fire Chief John Schilling. He said the two were examined by paramedics and released at the scene.

The cause of the explosion hasn’t been determined, but Shilling said the blast leveled about half of the building.

The explosion happened at about 10 a.m. and was heard across the city. Schilling said he heard the noise from city hall downtown.

He said the accident won’t effect power to the city.

Schilling said there was no debris outside the site, and windows in neighboring buildings were intact.

Betty Zeman, a CFU spokeswoman, said the site is a backup facility and only used during days with peak power demand or during emergencies. This morning, the two workers were undertaking a required annual “urge test” on the No. 2 gas combustion turbine when the explosion occurred.

She said there were no issues with gas leaks.

UPDATE at 10:30 a.m.

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa --- No injuries were reported after a power generating station exploded on the outskirts of Cedar Falls this morning.

Two Cedar Falls Utilities workers were inside the building at 2506 W. 27th St. when the blast damaged the facility, said Fire Chief John Schilling. He said the two were examined by paramedics and released at the scene.

The cause of the explosion hasn't been determined, but Shilling said the blast leveled about half of the building.

EARLIER STORY

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- Rescue crews are on the scene of an explosion near the University of Northern Iowa campus near the UNI-Dome.

Officials with Cedar Falls Fire Rescue were called to 2602 W. 27th St. about 10 a.m. on a report of an explosion.

There were no reported injuries.

But the boom from the explosion could be heard for blocks. People working and living near campus took to social media right afterwards, reporting that the walls of the McLeod Center shook during the blast. Another said the blast could be heard at Gold Falls apartments.

We will update this story.

Copyright 2015 Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(5) Comments

  1. Brian B
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    Brian B - August 22, 2013 1:49 am
    My goodness. The Russian's are attacking!!!!!
  2. James Brown
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    James Brown - August 20, 2013 8:11 am
    I thought parts of my house were falling down.
  3. helloall
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    helloall - August 19, 2013 3:47 pm
    im in industrial park and we felt it too. thought it was something on our ceiling....WRONG
  4. TimXXX
    Report Abuse
    TimXXX - August 19, 2013 12:29 pm
    This was the old junk turbine CFU got used, it was just a mater of time
  5. dawnhc
    Report Abuse
    dawnhc - August 19, 2013 10:48 am
    I live behind the College Square Mall and we felt the percussion here. The building shook and the windows rattled.
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