La Crosse company gives tour of damage after explosion

Explosion at Midwest Industrial Asphalt still under investigation

The cause of the explosion at Midwest Industrial Asphalt on La Crosse’s north side on Wednesday, November 19 is still under investigation.

On Monday, the company gave the news media a tour of the damaged 40-foot tank that exploded. It was carrying about 7,000 gallons of diesel and asphalt when it exploded into flames.

“We can assure everyone that everything here is secure and there is no danger to anybody,” said Steve Mathy, President of Midwest Industrial Asphalt.

When fire crews arrived on scene to find a 40-foot fuel tank in flames, they immediately talked about ways to contain the chemicals inside. But some of those containment measures were already in place, built at the same time as the tanks, specifically for these types of emergencies.

Surrounding the tanks are pits built to collect runoff. Because it’s near the river there are boats waiting nearby, and floats that can contain surface spills.

Even the top, that blew into the air during the explosion, worked how it should. “The fact that the explosion was funneled upwards and dispersed through the air, that’s a design,” said Division Chief Craig Snyder from the La Crosse Fire Deptartment, “if it had been a horizontal explosion we would have seen a lot more damage, probably greater injuries you would have seen more localized damage in the community as far as windows being possibly broken.”

The company says everything looks like it worked the way it should, and while they look into why the tank blew, they are taking a closer look at how they handled the blast. “When this process is over I’m sure we’ll learn a lot and we’ll be a better company because of it,” said Mathy.

There are seven tanks clustered close together at the site, they are all shut down right now until investigators figure out exactly what happened.

As for a cause, that could take several more weeks. The Fire Department, Midwest Industrial Asphalt and the insurance company are all running investigations.

One worker suffered minor burns during the explosion. he was treated and released and is back at work, and cooperating with investigators.

Midwest Industrial Asphalt clarified during the news conference that it owns a sister company called Midwest Fuels that operates on its grounds, but the explosion actually happened at Midwest Industrial Asphalt.