Engineers trying to figure out what caused violent explosion at Lakeland Electric power plant

Posted at 7:43 PM, May 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-02 19:43:55-04

Engineers are trying to figure out what triggered a violent explosion at the McIntosh power plant in Lakeland late last week.

Lakeland Electric said built-up steam burst a pipe on Unit 2 on Thursday afternoon, sending debris flying hundreds of yards.

Somehow nobody got hurt. Most of the 200 workers on site were down on Unit 3 working to fix an outage.

“It could have caused serious injury. It could have caused a fatality,” said Mike Beckham, Assistant General Manger for the utility.

The explosion could actually be heard miles away.

“I just heard a very loud boom. It shook the entire house,” said Leslie Ditto, who lives near the plant.

She said she rushed out and saw a thick plume of steam and smoke.

“You couldn’t see any of the factory at all which was alarming,” she said.

The big unanswered question: what exactly caused the explosion? And just as pressing, what is going to cost to fix it?

“We are going to do what we need to do to make unit two safe. We are either going to make it safe or we won’t run it,” Beckham said.

Both are very real possibilities.

The McIntosh power plant is aging quickly — Unit Two is more than 40 years old — and since the federal government is trying to phase out coal power plants, it may not make financial sense to keep it running.

“We need to look at all of that and see if we want to put that kind of money into it,” he said.