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Fatal Borehole Accident Investigated

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Fatal Borehole Accident Investigated

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Photo: Páll Stefánsson

The Suðurnes Police Department is investigating the accident in Reykjanes on Friday, in which a man was killed when gases from a borehole were carried into the water supply of the building where he slept, RÚV reports.

Measurements revealed hydrogen sulfide and carbon monoxide in the company’s cold water supply. Hydrogen sulfide was emitted from one of HS Orka’s boreholes in Reykjanes that morning.

There was a continuous flow of water in the house, which filled with fumes. The investigation focuses on finding out how the gases were carried into the water supply.

The Administration of Occupational Safety and Health and the Suðurnes Public Health Authority have been doing research there this morning. Kristinn Tómasson, senior physician, stated inspectors have made sure there is no air pollution in the area. Samples were taken from the public water supply, which was found to be free from pollution and safe for consumption.

A preliminary investigation is expected to be completed this week.

Andri Stefánsson, professor of earth sciences at the University of Iceland, stated it’s almost unheard-of for gases to be emitted from a cold borehole the way they appear to have done in the accident, RÚV reports.

Andri has conducted extensive research of geothermal heat in Iceland. He does not believe HS Orka, which runs the Reykjanes Geothermal Plant, is to blame for the accident. There, as at other such plants, safety standards are high. “From what I’ve been told, this was a completely unique case and very tragic, but something the company could not have foreseen.”

Andri finds it unlikely that the accident could be related to HS Orka’s deep drilling project, since that involves a very strict safety standard.

He believes the company must find out for sure what happened and then change its work procedures to ensure such a thing won’t happen again. Finally, as a safety precaution, a reaction plan must be in place, in the unlikely event that this happens again.

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