Domino might restart sugar refining Friday

BUSINESS DIGEST

November 06, 2007

The Domino Sugar plant in South Baltimore that shut down after an explosion and fire last week could restart operations by Friday, a company official said yesterday.

Brian O'Malley, president of sales and marketing for Domino Foods Inc.in Iselin, N.J., said work crews are doing an extensive overhaul and cleaning of the nine-story building on Key Highway.

"We certainly feel very fortunate that nobody was seriously injured or killed," O'Malley said. "It's too early to tell on the damage estimate, but we're going to be back 100 percent in a very short period of time."

O'Malley said company officials hope to be refining sugar again by the end of the week, but said there is a lot of work to be done cleaning up glass, scrubbing floors and equipment and removing food soiled by the fire and smoke. He said the building has been deemed structurally sound.

The explosion occurred Friday morning and forced the evacuation of about 175 workers. The blast could be felt across the Inner Harbor and blew out windows from the building. Baltimore firefighters battled fires on the upper floors, but the building's sprinkler system contained most of the fires.

The cause has not been pinpointed. Fire officials have said they are looking at a dust collection system, which collects fine particles created by moving sugar from place to place. O'Malley said officials also are looking at an area where confectionary sugar is refined.

About 6.1 million pounds of sugar are refined at the plant every day, and O'Malley said that all the product inside the building when the explosion occurred was lost.

But O'Malley said most of the sugar product is kept in nearby warehouses and was unaffected by the fire. He could not say how much money the company is losing from the shutdown.

"We lost a lot of product, I couldn't even give you a number," O'Malley said. "Accountants will add it up at some point. Right now all of our focus is getting the plant back in operation again."

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