BOISE, Idaho — An explosion Saturday at a hazardous waste site in southwestern Idaho killed one worker, injured three others and heavily damaged a building, officials said.
US Ecology, which runs the site, said Monte “Alex” Green of Grand View, Idaho, died of his injuries from the explosion at 9:23 a.m. inside one of the buildings at the facility.
Green was working as an equipment operator moving materials at the time of the accident, the company said.
Three others received treatment for non-life threatening injuries, the company said. A total of 15 US Ecology employees were working during the time of the explosion. The facility is about 50 miles (80 kilometres) south of Boise.
“Most of the skin has been blown out, and much of the metal has been bent,” Simon Bell, the company’s vice-president of operations and chief operating officer, said of the building. “It would have been a large explosion based on the damage to the building.”
There’s no threat to the public, and emergency crews, including a hazardous materials team, were at the site, Owyhee County spokeswoman Angela Barkell said. The facility is about 10 miles (16 kilometres) east of the small town of Grand View, and about a mile from a highway.
“No immediate threat has been identified, and no evacuations have taken place,” Barkell said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.
Bell said employees were doing routine work at the time of the blast, but he didn’t want to speculate on the cause.
“Since we had an explosion there was something out of the ordinary, and we will be fiercely focused on understanding what that is,” he said.
The company takes in contaminants such as arsenic, lead, zinc, cadmium and other metals that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has deemed hazardous and converts them to non-hazardous residues, minimizing the long-term risks of disposal.
The company then buries them at the site, which Bell said is about 200 acres. Bell said the company is working with emergency responders by providing maps of the facility and where various hazardous wastes are being stored.
Emergency officials said the building where the explosion occurred is used to process powdered magnesium products. Officials said a series of chemical reactions followed the initial blast.
US Ecology Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Feeler issued a statement about the explosion.
We are deeply saddened to confirm that there has been one fatality resulting from the accident at our Grand View, Idaho facility today,” Feeler said. “This is a tragedy that has been felt through the entire US Ecology family and the darkest day in US Ecology’s 66-year history. The entire US Ecology family extends its deepest, heartfelt sympathy to the employees, family members, and loved ones affected by this tragic event. Our focus will now be helping our team members cope with this loss while conducting a thorough investigation and working with authorities as they close out their own investigation.”
The three people who are being treated at hospitals and expected to recover.
Bell said the company, which also has facilities in other states, has never had such a serious incident.
“Our focus is on the families of those affected by the accident, supporting the first responders, and making sure our employees are cared for and updated on what’s happening in this process,” he said in an earlier statement.
US Ecology agreed to pay a $184,400 fine in 2012 after the EPA said it failed to submit timely reports on toxic chemical releases at the site, according to the agency’s enforcement database.
‘Fantastic Beasts’ flies to top of weekend box office
LOS ANGELES — “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” worked its magic at the weekend box office and opened as the top film.
The latest offering from the Harry Potter universe earned $62.2 million for Warner Bros. in the United States and Canada, according to studio estimates Sunday.
That fell short of the opening of the first film in the series, 2016’s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” which debuted with $74 million in a similar November release and went on to earn $234 million in the U.S. and Canada.
Last week’s top film, “Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch,” was second with $38.1 million, bringing its domestic tally to $126 million for Universal after two weekends.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” is still rocking, taking third place with $15.7 million for a total of $127 million.
DP World chairman says trade tensions will make 2019 challenging
Watch geeks drive booming trade in preowned pieces
NEW YORK — Around two dozen traders sit in an open-layout second floor of a building in suburban Philadelphia. Surrounded by computer monitors, loud conversation and ringing phones, the energy on this trading floor is high and the commodity is blingy.
At the headquarters of Govberg, they’re not dealing in diamonds or gold but preowned luxury watches, of which company sells about $200 million worth a year.
Some 100 miles (160 kilometres) northeast, 23-year-old Christian Zeron sits in his parents’ dining room in suburban New Jersey looking at around 30 preowned vintage watches. In a few days, he’ll put them up for sale on his company’s website, theoandharris.com, which sells $2 million worth of watches annually.
Govberg, in the watch business for 35 years, and Theo&Harris, founded only three years ago, are part of the thriving preowned luxury watch business. Along with dozens of other companies, they are the core of an industry that has exploded over the past few years, rivaling the new luxury timepiece business in size.
“It’s bigger than people think,” said Reginald Brack, executive director and industry analyst for watches and luxury at NPD Group, which studies $2 trillion in consumer spending across 20 industries.
Brack said it’s difficult to quantify precisely the market for preowned watches because nobody tracks it thoroughly. But some estimates put it at three times the new luxury watch market, itself estimated to be worth up to $10 billion just in the U.S.
“I wouldn’t disagree with that statement,” Brack said. “And it’s only getting bigger.”
Even though watches have been disappearing from people’s wrists with the spread of mobile phones, luxury watches remain a popular status symbol. In fact, sales have slightly crept up in the last two years.
The preowned business allows shoppers to get a good deal on modern watches like Rolex Submariner, while also offering a large selection of vintage pieces like an early 20th Century Cartier Tank.
Danny Govberg, the founder of Govberg’s global watch operation WatchBox, compared the rise of preowned watches to the “quartz revolution” nearly five decades ago.
The introduction of battery-operated quartz movements in wristwatches took a big bite out of the market share from major automatic or mechanical watch brands such as Rolex, Omega, Patek Philippe, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and Audemars Piguet. Those brands, which have since recovered, are now the bread and butter of today’s preowned watch traders.
“Preowned watches are coming out of drawers so fast and furious now that I’ve never seen anything like it,” Govberg said in an interview in the company’s headquarters in Bala Cynwyd, just outside Philadelphia. “It’s a real disruption coming to our industry.”
Luxury brands have taken note. In June, Richemont, the owner of such brands as Cartier and IWC, bought Watchfinder, a British online platform for trading preowned watches.
“The preowned market has taken some business from the new market, there’s no question,” said Steven Kaiser, a veteran watch industry executive and founder of Kaiser Time, a New York-based luxury industry consulting firm.
Govberg entered the preowned watch business in 1983 when he introduced watches to his family’s jewelry store on Jewelers’ Row on Philadelphia’s Sansom Street.
“People weren’t collecting vintage watches back then,” he said, recalling that he would travel to Europe to buy used Rolexes and Patek Philippes from watch shows. “Little shows that you would go to, almost like trading card shows. Like wristwatch swap shows.”
At the turn of the millennium, new platforms such as eBay drove Govberg to adopt his own online strategy. Ultimately, he founded WatchBox, a digital platform and app that includes video reviews and a trading market for valuable timepieces. The company recently launched a second season of “The Classroom,” a YouTube series that aims to educate watch enthusiasts about the intricacies of owning a watch that could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Zeron, of Theo&Harris, also uses video to offer his thoughts on the industry. He regularly gets hundreds of thousands of views for his four weekly YouTube posts.
“Social media is where it took off,” he said, sitting in his parents’ living room with Anna Griffin who was his first employee and a fellow student at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. “We don’t have a retail store — there was no actual foot traffic. It was all social buzz.”
The young entrepreneur, who founded the company with $10,000 in saved up birthday money when he was a college sophomore, has a larger-than-life persona on social media, with a no-holds-barred approach to roasting iconic brands such as Breitling. Some of his viewers comment that he needs to lay off the caffeine or sugar.
The internet has democratized horological knowledge, much like other niche areas of expertise like aviation.
A watch enthusiast can spend hours on web forums, debating the differences between the various iterations of a $4,500 Tudor Black Bay (“I love the domed crystal but I’d be interested to see it 1mm thicker,” says one member on RolexForums.com of the latest “Fifty-Eight” release.)
The explosive growth of preowned watch sales has deeper roots than social media, however. There’s an emotional and intellectual appeal to owning a mechanical device that could have three hundred small pieces inside.
“Nothing that anyone consumes is very interesting anymore,” said Zeron, sporting a 1980s 18-karat gold Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date.
Take the ubiquitous iPhone — easily replaceable, Zeron notes.
“If your vintage Omega breaks, that’s it. It’s over. You will never get another one like it,” he said. “You are going to remember the drinks and the dates and the arguments you had in it. You are going to be sad that you lost it.”
Then, there is the sheer volume and variety on offer, with supply constantly flowing out of people’s drawers.
“If you went into an IWC boutique, they may have 50, 60, 70, 80 watches to choose from,” Govberg said. “But in the preowned space of IWC, you may have 900 watches to choose from.”
But the bottom line is that a preowned luxury watch in great condition is usually a third of the price of a new one.
“For someone that is collecting, for someone that’s trying various pieces, is a natural fit,” said Paul Bragan, a watch collector and senior partner at market research firm Wakefield Research, based in Arlington, Virginia.
Bragan spent hours quizzing Zeron online before taking the plunge with his first vintage watch purchase: a 1978 Rolex Datejust, which the Theo&Harris founder personally delivered during a trip to the Washington, D.C., area. It was the start of a friendship, and many more purchases for Bragan.
“There’s a trade-in value proposition with preowned watches much like the car industry,” said Brack, of NDP.
Watch executives often say their business is like the car industry — only better.
“In the car business, you have about 15 years on a car,” Govberg said. “Watches are meant to last 100 years.”
Follow Amir Bibawy on Twitter @AmirBibawy
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