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Tampa Electric sentenced to probation for fatal blast and will pay $500,000 fine

View from above of a large power plant buildings on the edge of water
Tampa Electric's Big Bend Power plant has been in service near Apollo Beach since 1970.

The explosion at TECO’s Big Bend coal-fired power station in southeastern Hillsborough County killed five workers and injured others.

A plea agreement made by a Tampa-based utility has been finalized, with Tampa Electric agreeing to pay $500,000 and to be placed on three years’ probation for a 2017 deadly explosion at a power plant that killed five workers.

The U.S. Justice Department said in a news release Friday that Tampa Electric Co. also must adhere to a new safety compliance plan.

The fine is the maximum allowed for such violations. It follows a plea agreement made earlier this year in federal court earlier this year where TECO pleaded guilty to violating an Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard causing death.

The explosion at TECO’s Big Bend coal-fired power station in southeastern Hillsborough County happened when an effort was made using high-pressure water to clear a slag byproduct that accumulates in tanks under the coal-fired furnaces.

The workers died and several more were injured when they were sprayed with molten slag.

Set on the eastern edge of Tampa Bay, the 1,500-acre Big Bend plant is located on Big Bend Road, close to Apollo Beach.

According to TECO, the plant includes four coal-fired units. The first unit began service in 1970, TECO said, while other generating units were added in 1973 and 1976 and 1985. The utility added a natural gas- and fuel oil-fired peaking unit was installed in 2009.

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