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University of Iowa News Release

Aug. 23, 2005

UI Power Plant Fined $22,500 by State Agency Following Fire

The University of Iowa Main Power Plant was fined $22,500 on July 26 following a safety inspection by Iowa Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH). The inspection was conducted in the aftermath of a July 24 fire in one of the plant coal silos.  During the fire, an employee was exposed to flames and smoke while removing coal from the silo. No injuries occurred during the silo fire, and total damage was less than $5,000. The Iowa City Fire Department assisted the plant in clearing the silo of the burning material.

Six citations were filed in connection with the fine. They were for failure to have available a comprehensive written emergency action plan and procedure for responding to a coal silo fire; failure to have performed a formal personal protective equipment hazard for the task of removing burning coal from a silo; failure to make readily available the carbon dioxide inerting system installed for extinguishing fires; failure to have a formal procedure developed and in place for preventing a fire from occurring in a coal storage silo; and failure to deal promptly with the fire because of the lack of a formal procedure for handling a coal silo fire. In addition, inspectors found that an electrical fan had outer electrical insulation pulled from the plug.

An internal university safety investigation was also completed and identified a number of recommendations to improve coal handling procedures and safety at the facility. "A number of circumstances lined up to cause this incident," says Ferman Milster, UI associate director for utilities and energy management.  "We're grateful there were no injuries and only minor damage. The internal investigation and IOSH inspection confirmed we have a lot of work to do improving our procedures and process for handling this sort of situation, and we're working now to make those improvements, not only to comply with regulatory requirements, but to be sure we have the safest, most efficient work environment that we can reasonably maintain."

The Main Power Plant is the sole source of steam energy for the University campus and University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. It is a combined heat and power facility that also generates about 30 percent of the electric power used on campus. Steam is used year round for heating, chilled water production, and other research and process loads.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACT(S): Media: Charles S. Drum, 319-384-0048, charles-drum@uiowa.edu; Program: Ferman Milster, 319-335-5132, ferman-milster@uiowa.edu