By David Savastano
While authorities try to piece together the cause of the Nov. 22 explosion that rocked the Danvers, MA facility of CAI Inc., a family-owned ink manufacturer, and Arnel Inc., a manufacturer of industrial-use paint products, CAI Inc. is trying to do what it can to help the community and continue its business operations.
A family business incorporated in 1985 by Vincent Sartorelli, CAI Inc. is now run by his six sons. The company manufactures water-based and solvent-based ink systems that are used by the flexible packaging/paper board industry.
The explosion occurred at about 2:46 a.m. while the plant was closed and the neighborhood slept. Ten people were treated and released from a local hospital for minor injuries, none were seriously hurt. At least ten homes and businesses were destroyed and many others sustained extensive damage. The explosion was reportedly heard more than 20 miles away. “We feel so thankful and relieved that nobody was seriously hurt,” said Cheryl McLarney, spokesperson for CAI. “If there is a silver lining in all of this, that would be it,” added Ms. McLarney.
While they work diligently to support the efforts of federal and state investigators in the search for a cause of the accident, CAI executives remain concerned about the neighborhood families and business owners.
“The neighborhood itself is a close-knit group, which CAI has been a part of for more than two decades,” said Ms. McLarney. “There are still 45 families that are displaced and we are encouraging our friends and colleagues to donate to the Danvers Community Council, a local non-profit organization which has been assisting these families since the incident occurred on the eve of Thanksgiving.”
Searching for the Cause
State investigators have determined the incident was an accident, but have not made a final determination as to its cause and origin. Investigators have not ruled out gas as a source of the explosion. CAI has been cooperating fully with investigators since the incident occurred and remains committed to assisting their efforts. Meanwhile, investigators from the state Environmental Protection Agency, the Fire Marshal’s Office and the U.S. Chemical Safety Board are trying to determine what actually caused the explosion.
CAI has a spotless record of safety, and holds the appropriate permits required to handle and store all regulated materials. Throughout its 20 years of operation, CAI has maintained an impeccable safety record.
According to statements made by Danvers Fire Chief James Tutko and State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan, “CAI had a commendable safety record.” Danvers Town Manager Wayne Marquis said he had “heard of no complaints about CAI.” CAI welcomed oversight and inspections of their manufacturing facilities.
“Safety, quality, customer service and good corporate citizenship have been the driving principles of this small family business for more than two decades,” Ms. McLarney said. “One of the key indicators of workplace safety is the number of injuries that occur annually, and CAI’s average incident rate over the last ten years is about half the rate of the industry average in Massachusetts. In six of the last 10 years, CAI had no injuries to report.”
While the company and its co-tenant, Arnel, used solvents, Ms. McLarney said storage was handled in the proper fashion, adding that the safety systems such as a foam fire sprinkler system had been installed about five years ago.
“All materials, including solvents, which were used in the ink manufacturing process at CAI were properly permitted, handled and stored by the company,” Ms. McLarney said. “The majority of solvents used at CAI were stored in underground tanks outside the building, and these tanks were not breached in the explosion. Smaller quantities of chemicals, including solvents, were stored in appropriate storage containers within the facility.”
Meanwhile, CAI is doing its best to keep its business going. Its water-based ink facilities are operating, and CAI is partnering with other ink manufacturing companies to manufacture solvent-based products.
“The company is doing its best to keep its doors open and not lay anybody off,” Ms. McLarney said. “Competitors have been very generous and supportive. It’s a testament to the ink industry and the level of respect CAI has in its field.
“Everyone at CAI continues to be deeply concerned for the families and business owners whose lives have been impacted in this incident and are grateful for the support and assistance that has been provided by a caring community, and local, state and federal agencies,” Ms. McLarney concluded. “CAI plans to retain all current employees and is committed to continuing to provide the quality products their customers have depended upon for more than 20 years.”