By Charles Paullin
For The Sentinel
STRASBURG — As the investigation into Friday morning’s boiler explosion at Valley Milk Products continues, the owner of neighboring businesses is thankful the damage wasn’t worse.
Garlan Gochenour, owner of the shopping complex directly west of the plant in the 400 block of East King Street, said the top of the boiler shot through the plant and hit the back of On Second Thought Consignment and Thrift, one of three businesses in Gochenour’s 12,148-square-foot building.
“Talk about fortunate,” said Gochenour, owner since 2001 of the old Safeway grocery store complex.
Racks inside the store were pushed back where the top of the boiler hit, Gochenour said. If the impact had been 5 feet to the left, it might have damaged a water main and caused flooding. If it had hit 10 feet to the left, it would have hit electrical components, he said.
No one was working at the store at 4 a.m. when the blast occurred, Gochenour said, or else employees could have been injured.
“It could’ve been so much worse,” Gochenour said.
The boiler explosion caused an ammonia leak that required several streets around Valley Milk to be shut down for several hours on Friday.
Shenandoah County Fire and Rescue Department crews turned the scene over to a private hazmat contractor around 8:30 p.m. Friday night, before the street reopened, Deputy Chief Bill Streett said Monday.
The Shenandoah County Fire Marshal’s Office is involved with the investigation, Streett said. The Fire Marshal’s Office did not immediately return a request for comment Monday afternoon.
As a result of the damage, Gochenour’s consignment shop is likely to be closed for a month. Plywood has been put over the hole. An inspector will determine if the back load bearing wall had any structural damage, Gochenour said. If it does, that will complicate the reopening process, Gochenour said.
The three consignment shop employees will be transferred to the Woodstock location, Gochenour said. People who have items with the consignment shop will be given extra time for sales to be completed, Gochenour said. New items will be accepted at the Woodstock location.
With the incident, some people have questioned whether property in town should be zoned for limited industrial. Gochenour said he had no thoughts about rezoning the land and said that Valley Milk has been there for years and he’s had no problems.
“They’ve been great neighbors,” Gochenour said.
An attempt to reach Valley Milk Products was unsuccessful late Monday afternoon. On Friday, the company, released a statement saying there were no injuries in the explosion. The plant employs 18 people, and none were working at the time.