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February 13. 2014 9:50PM

NHBB plant resumes some operations after explosion

PETERBOROUGH — New Hampshire Ball Bearing resumed some operations Thursday following Monday's explosion, with hopes of being fully operational by next week.

First-shift employees for all departments except the ball plant, ball inspection, press room/retainer and assembly were called back to work Thursday, Hans M. Baker, NHBB communications project manager, said in an email Thursday.

"NHBB has approximately 375 employees in the building today, 135 specifically dedicated to the production process. The additional 200 people are salaried and production support personnel, as well as those involved in facilities support," he wrote.

Much of the morning was spent bringing machines back online and going through quality evaluations, he wrote, with component fabrication operations expected to resume swiftly.

By the afternoon, parts were already being produced. Barring anything unforeseen, assembly and shipping operations are expected to be fully functional next week, he wrote.

"Please know that while our actions have been focused on ensuring the safety of our employees, inspecting and repairing the building and returning to full production, our thoughts have been focused on our two most seriously injured employees. Please continue to keep them in your thoughts."

The manufacturing plant, which employs about 600 people, closed Monday after an explosion rocked the Route 202 facility. Fourteen people were hospitalized with two critically injured with burns and trauma injuries. The building was substantially damaged, and officials continue to investigate the blast.

State Fire Marshal J. William Degnan and Peterborough Fire Chief Joseph P. Lenox III said Wednesday that the cause of the explosion has been determined to be directly related to a nitric acid reaction.

"We do agree with their focus and are continuing to investigate the specific details behind the explosion," Baker wrote, adding "Testing by the Fire Marshal's Office revealed no release of chemicals outside the building, and air quality was tested and deemed safe. NHBB also completed a review of the integrity of all chemical storage areas."

mpierce@newstote.com



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