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    Blast at plant breaks windows in Largo homes

    AquaLux Corp., which makes alternative fuel, blames a faulty storage tank, not its product.

    By MIKE BRASSFIELD

    © St. Petersburg Times, published May 23, 2001


    LARGO -- An explosion at a company that makes alternative fuels blew out windows in six houses Tuesday, just weeks after the company assured its new neighbors that the manufacturing site would be safe and problem-free.

    No one was hurt, but the explosion rattled neighbors' nerves around the AquaLux Corp.'s 5-acre site at 6727 126th Ave. N.

    "They talked about how safe and quiet everything was going to be," said Suzanne Buehler, who lives on Gorda Circle and whose back yard borders the site.

    Buehler recently attended a meeting that AquaLux organized to introduce itself to the neighborhood. Now her house has three shattered windows and torn lanai screens.

    "They told us, "You won't hear anything,' " said her son, Dan Tryon.

    A 100-pound cylinder containing various gases exploded about 4 p.m. in a sheet metal building behind the company's offices, said District Chief Pat McGinley of the Largo Fire Department. The blast blew out the building's skylights.

    "It actually lifted us off the bed," said neighbor Brandi Martin, who had been sleeping with her infant son. "I thought it might have been a plane crash."

    Fire inspectors were investigating the explosion.

    AquaLux quickly sent a window company to repair neighbors' homes.

    "We're taking care of the damage," said administrative assistant Sarah Ford. "Thank God no one was hurt."

    The company says a faulty storage tank, not its fuel, was to blame for the explosion.

    "It's a non-combustible fuel," Ford said. "It's a great fuel. It's environmentally friendly."

    AquaLux makes a product called AquaFuel, a gaseous mix of hydrogen, oxygen and carbon. The company's Web site describes it as a clean, synthetic alternative to fossil fuels.

    Before AquaLux bought and cleaned up the Largo property, it had stood vacant for years, neighbors said. It was once used to manufacture concrete housings for burial caskets.

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