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Refinery explosion totals house



Several Woods Cross houses were damaged today after a massive explosion at the Silver Eagle oil refinery in Woods Cross. No one was reported injured. Another explosion at this same refinery injured four workers in January, one very seriously. The refinery has had numerous safety violations in recent years, which company officials have repeatedly characterized as normal for the industry.---

On KSL Radio this morning, a Silver Eagle representative said the refinery's safety violations are not out of the ordinary. He then repeated and oft-repeated line that the refineries were built first, as if to say the residents moved in at their own risk. Usually they say this when people are complaining about smells or air pollution; it seemed strange to say that about explosions.

I talked to Judy Averett who lives within a mile of refinery and had pictures knocked off her wall by the explosion, but no damage. She built her Woods Cross home 45 years ago. She responded to the point that the refineries were indeed in the area before the homes and explained why that happened.

"I think we all thought it was really safe to build a home here," she said. "We didn't have this problem [with fires and explosions] even three or four years ago. The [Silver Eagle] refinery wasn't a problem."

The point Averett was making is that, yeah, sure, the residents moved into the neighborhood after the refineries were there. But the refineries have changed. They've aged. And catastrophes related to them have come in increasing frequency.

According to Utah Department of Labor safety inspection reports that I reviewed after the January explosion there, Silver Eagle is Utah's oldest refinery and was built entirely with second-hand parts.

"This is the fifth time in six years that it's blown up," said resident Linda Wood, who was asked to make an emergency move-out of her home by Woods Cross City because it was deemed unsafe. "They gave us 'till tonight to to get out. They said a strong wind could take the top off."

I walked though Wood's home. Each of the windows facing the rear were blown out and there was obvious damage along the roof line on the exterior. No one was home at the time of the explosion.

The Woods Cross 5th Ward had gathered like bees to help Wood move out. They were loading the grandfather clock among other things onto moving trucks. When I asked several if they knew who they home owner was, a few said they didn't. They were helping someone in crisis that they didn't even know.