FARMINGTON — Maine Public Utilities Commission issued a citation to a Manchester company owner Dec. 23, 2019, for violating the Dig Safe law regarding a deadly explosion at a LEAP Inc. facility on Sept. 16 at 313 Farmington Falls Road.

Maine PUC cited a Manchester company in December in connection to the Sept. 16 Farmington explosion for alleged violations of Dig Safe requirements. Donna M. Perry/Sun Journal

A PUC damage prevention investigation revealed that Michael Brochu, owner of Techno Post of Maine, installed three bollards at LEAP’s site on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019, according to investigator Barry Truman’s notice of enforcement investigation. The installation of the safety posts met the definition of “excavation” contained in the commission’s rules on Underground Facility Damage Prevention requirements, according to Truman’s notice.

Dig Safe’s ticket tracking system showed Brochu did not submit any locate requests in the past 12 months and had not committed any violation of the Dig Safe law or rules in the past 12 months.

The probable violations are that the “excavator failed to properly notify Dig Safe” and the “excavator failed to properly premark area of proposed excavation,” according to Truman’s notice. He recommends a penalty of $500 each.

A consent agreement was sent to the company Dec. 23. Brochu has up to 30 days from the time the notice was issued to either pay the penalty or dispute the violation. The agreement had not been signed or returned as of Thursday, according to PUC Administrative Director Harry Lanphear.

Violators of the Dig Safe law may be subject to a civil penalty of up to $500 for each violation committed during the first incident and up to $5,000 for each committed during subsequent incidents, and/or be required to perform remedial action, according to the PUC.

Brochu was not available for comment Thursday.

Farmington Fire Rescue Capt. Michael Bell died in the blast that seriously or critically injured six other firefighters and LEAP Inc. maintenance supervisor Larry Lord of Jay.

The Office of State Fire Marshal said the propane line went from the 400-gallon outside tank at the rear of the property to the basement of the building via an underground section beneath the parking lot.

The tank had been filled Friday, Sept. 13.

During the weekend, nearly 400 gallons of propane leaked beneath the parking lot, some of it reaching the basement.

“Normally propane has a distinctive odor from an additive added to the fuel,” the fire marshal’s office said, “but investigators think that odor may have been filtered by the soil under the parking lot.”

Lord showed up for work Monday morning, Sept. 16, and smelled propane in the basement and immediately got employees to leave the building. Minutes later it exploded, leaving him with critical injuries.

He was listed in fair condition Thursday at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston where he has been for the past four months.

Besides the injuries, about 30 people were displaced when their homes and a couple of businesses were damaged.

Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, said he met with fire marshals Thursday, and a news release will be issued Friday on the conclusions from their investigation.

Bell’s daughter, Danielle Bell Flannery, and state Rep. H. Scott Landry, D-Farmington, testified Tuesday before the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee of Energy, Utilities and Technology in support of a bill that liquefied propane be covered under the Dig Safe law. They said a bollard placed next to the LEAP building to protect a heating unit severed an underground propane line.

Capt. Bell’s family hired the law firm of Berman & Simmons in Lewiston in November to represent them and to investigate what caused the building’s propane leak in the days leading up to the blast. However, Berman & Simmons is now representing Larry Lord, according to Christen Graham of Giving Strong.

Firefighters are being represented by McKee Law in Augusta, attorney Walter McKee confirmed Thursday.

 

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