A Massachusetts ink manufacturer whose plant exploded and damaged dozens of homes has mounted a legal challenge to the state’s authority to bill it $312,000 for the cost of responding to the crisis.
Lawyers for CAI Inc. in Danvers, Mass. have asked a judge to rule that their clients cannot be assessed costs before the cause of the Nov. 22 explosion is officially determined, according to the Salem News.
Also, two insurance companies have filed lawsuits against CAI and its co-tenant, paint-maker Arnel Co., seeking to recoup payments the insurers made to homeowners around the plant site. They are the first of what could be many lawsuits against the companies.
CAI’s billing dispute stems from a state law that requires the state to bill the owner of a site where there has been a release of hazardous materials, “without regard to fault.” A state agency has determined that CAI is liable for more then $312,000 in costs associated with responding to the blast, according to the newspaper.
CAI argues, however, that the cause of the blast is “an unknown element,” and there’s no legal basis for determining that CAI is the one responsible.
The Massachusetts state fire marshal’s office has concluded that the pre-dawn explosion, which damaged dozens of surrounding homes but left no one seriously injured, did not involve arson. But neither the fire marshal nor the federal Chemical Safety Board has determined a precise cause.
The Chemical Safety Board issued a press release in February saying an accumulation of vapors inside the plant was the “probable source of fuel” for the explosion. The board said that the day before the explosion, a heated mixing tank used by CAI was filled with 2,000 gallons of printing ink ingredients, including heptane and propyl alcohol, both volatile, flammable solvents. The federal investigators suggest that the solvents could have evaporated, causing vapors to accumulate.
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