ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – The St. Louis building commissioner says the deadly Soulard boiler blast was not city hall’s fault, even though the city had not inspected the boiler since 2011.
“I do not feel that we’re liable,” said building commissioner Frank Oswald. “It’s the individual responsibility of the company.”
Oswald says under city ordinance, boiler inspections can be done either by the city or by a stationary engineer required to be on-site whenever a company is running a boiler.
“We have a more rigorous requirement, in my opinion, by having a professional there every time that thing is running,” Oswald said. “In fact, there are a number of big companies who don’t like that requirement because they have to pay those people.”
The neighborhood alderman is not satisfied with Oswald’s response.
Soulard Alderman Jack Coatar says for the inspector to work for the company that owns the boiler is a conflict of interest.
“I don’t know how we can rely on an engineer who is an employee of the company to regulate their own system,” Coatar said. “You need a third party – whether it’s the city or the state – to regulate these things and say, ‘This is a problem; we’re shutting you down.'”
Oswald says the city cannot afford to inspect boilers, because there are thousands of them spread across town, and he only has six mechanical engineers.
Oswald says there is a third party now involved in the process: Insurance companies that insure companies with boilers have an interest in making sure they are safe and operational, so they don’t have to pay a claim after an explosion.
Coatar says maybe it’s time to shift the burden of regulating boilers in the city to the state of Missouri.