The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 18, 2014

Natural gas leaks plague ACF Industries

By Ashley Wislock
The Daily Item

— MILTON — A gas leak not only started a fire Monday at ACF Industries in Milton, but caused several other smaller explosions, according to employees.

Those issues can be traced back to the complicated piping system at the plant - which are on their way to being fixed, according to officials.

UGI Utilities spokesman Joe Swope confirmed that the utility company had been called out to the facility to look for the source of a gas leak. Gas service to the ACF campus has been turned off as the plant works to repair some of the pipes, Swope said.

“There is a fuel line needs to be repaired and the system needs to be pressure tested,” he said.

ACF is continuing to investigate the incidents, which include a couple of explosions in various sections of the plant, said one employee, who asked not to be identified.

Some employees have been told to stay home while ACF works on finding the source of the commotion and those that remain at the plant are nervous, though they’ve been told their work areas are safe for continued production.

Multiple calls to officials at ACF were not returned Friday.

The state Department of Environmental Protection confirmed they were notified about a leaking propane tank at ACF Wednesday.

“ACF has a 30,000 gallon above ground propane tank and the pressure of the tank was tested and determined there was a one-inch underground line leaking,” said DEP spokeswoman Lisa Kasianowitz. “It runs between the different buildings, paint building and the tank car production shop. When the leak was detected, the line was turned off and the company switched to using natural gas.”

The DEP did not send a unit to respond to the incident, since it “does not have a program there that regulates the pressurized liquid propane storage tank and lines,” Kasianowitz said.

Monday’s fire was attributed to this leaky propane pipe, said Milton borough manager Chuck Beck. UGI records also indicate that a propane leak was the cause of the blaze.

Monday’s fire was contained to the paint shop, which plant officials said they expect to remain closed for about a week while repairs take place.

ACF Industries manufactures specialty railcars plus parts and assorted steel products. The plant got back up and running last April after officials from United Steel Workers reached an agreement with ACF to resume operation. Most of ACF’s 300 employees were laid off, and operations there ceased in February 2009.