Propane Explosion at Brookhaven Lab

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A propane leak caused an explosion at a drinking water pump station atBrookhaven National Laboratory in Upton Monday night -- an explosion soloud it was reported by residents near the 5,000-acre government lab,officials said.

Lab officials stressed there was "no risk to the general public fromthis event," adding that access to the immediate area "has beenrestricted."

The pump station is a quarter-mile from a world-renowned heavy ion particle accelerator at the lab.

Officials said the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, which is used tostudy the state of matter formed in the first microseconds of theuniverse, was never threatened by the blast that leveled the 34-by-20foot, 680-square foot concrete block pump building at about 9:30 p.m.

In a prepared statement, officials also said local, county and U.S.Department of Energy officials have all been notified "about theemergency."

The site of the blast, located in what Brookhaven Lab Deputy directorof operations Mike Bebon called the geographic center of the labcomplex, took 10 minutes for police and emergency responders to find.

He said there was no fire as a result of the explosion -- and thatanother structure, a water filtration unit located just 20 feet away,was not damaged.

A single propane tank fed an engine inside the water pump station, one of several on the lab property, Bebon said.

The engines are in place in case of a power failure, he said.

It is believed a leak caused propane gas to build up inside theconcrete structure and that a spark from other pumping equipment mayhave caused that gas to explode, Bebon said. The Suffolk County FireMarshal is on site investigating the accident Tuesday.

Brookhaven Lab spokeswoman Mona Rowe said there was no evidence the explosion was linked to "a malicious act."

She also said the Brookhaven Lab Police and Fire/Rescue Groups reported that no one was injured in the blast.

"It was loud enough so that neighbors heard it and reported it," Rowe said.

Brookhaven Lab conducts research in physical, biomedical andenvironmental sciences, as well as in energy technologies and nationalsecurity.

Officials note the lab also builds and operates major scientificfacilities available to university, industry and government researchers.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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