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MASON CITY – It appeared that no one was hurt in an apparent explosion at Soy Energy LLC, located at 4172 19th St. SW.
At the scene, firefighters were looking for signs of trouble and employees were gathered outside watching. Police guarded the main entrance.
A second-floor window showed what appeared to be smoke or water from a sprinkler and firefighters did not appear to be discharging hoses, according to NIT photojournalist Jody Spear.
A Fire Department crew will remain on-site to monitor for an undetermined amount of time, I am told.
Soy Energy LLC manufactures bio-diesel products mainly from corn oil and some soy oil.
NorthIowaToday.com met with a group of former Soy Energy employees several weeks back at their request, who warned about the possibility of a dangerous explosion at the plant.
According to these sources, a chemical called methanol combined with what they said are dangerous practices at the plant could lead to a catastrophic situation. “Wal-Mart would be gone,” one woman who recently worked at Soy Energy LLC said.
The group also said that rail cars full of biodiesel chemicals at the plant are “combustible.” They said it would take a lot of heat to ignite these chemicals, but if it happened, the explosion would be “very violent.”
Cell-phone use inside the plant, which they say is prohibited, happens regularly, and could be enough to cause a safety hazard. They also claim a lack of training and OSHA violations “galore” at the plant. The plant’s website says, however, that “We are a fully staffed plant with all Environmental & OSHA-mandated programs and training in place.”
They also said the plant’s board of directors is seeking $5-$7 million in additional investment from current investors “to keep the plant going.”
A call to the plant Tuesday produced only a “no comment at this time” to all questions. The man on the phone said the plant manager was “out on the floor” and couldn’t be reached.