Some Imperial Sugar Employees Return to Work - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Some Imperial Sugar Employees Return to Work

PORT WENTWORTH, GA (WTOC) - Could a buildup of sugar dust be the cause of the explosion at the Imperial Sugar refinery? Investigators with the Chemical Safety Board say that might be the case. And as it turns out, this is not the first incident at that plant.

Investigators say three weeks ago, a small incident occurred when a piece of metal passed through the sugar grinding process and caused a smaller spark.

According to the incident report, there was minimal damage to the machine and no one was injured.

Fifty employees were on site today, separated into three groups. One team is checking out the equipments and extent of the damage, a second team is working with engineers and the Chemical Safety Board as they tour the facility, and the third group is removing finished sugar in the warehouse which the USDA approved and packing it up to ship out.

Imperial Sugar CEO John Sheptor says employees are relieved to come back to work. He says they're planning to rebuild, but it's important to take time and evaluate everything to prevent something like this from happening again.

"We are very optimistic that the refinery part of the facility has minor damage," he said. "The explosion was centered in the packaging facility, where we have a total loss of that equipment. But we do believe we have good reason to have optimism to be able to restart the refinery in the near future."

Sheptor says he hopes to call in more employees each day. He's working with the Port Wentworth Fire Department to make sure the sprinkler systems are up and running, and also hoping to get communications equipment back up and running in the portions of the plant which weren't damaged.

They're also working to find alternatives for customers so the company can meet their demands.

A community memorial service for those who lost their lives will be held this Saturday, February 23, at 1pm at the Savannah Civic Center.

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