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Two people suffered injuries, one of them seriously, in an accident at a Northern California power plant that burns wood chips and other waste to produce electricity.

“Catastrophic mechanical failure” caused a boiler at the Buena Vista Biomass Power plant in Ione, CA, to rupture with such force Wednesday morning that workers initially thought there had been an explosion, said Amador County Undersheriff Jim Wegner.

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One of the injured ended up airlifted to a Sacramento hospital with burns and cuts. Medical workers treated the other injured worker at the scene.

The 18-megawatt plant 57 miles southeast of Sacramento used to run on coal, but the owners of the plant converted to biomass last year.

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An environmental group sued two years ago to block the project over concerns that nearby forests would end up harvested as fuel. A settlement called for the company to report the sources of its materials.

While investigators are still investigating the incident, Wegner said officials have no reason to think the accident was intentional.

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