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State EPA calls for review of Alsip chemical plant blast

Updated: December 16, 2013 6:02PM



State environmental officials are calling for a review of what caused an explosion last Friday at a south suburban chemical factory that left two workers hurt.

The Illinois EPA is asking Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office to seek an injunction ordering Blue Island Phenol of Alsip to conduct a “root cause analysis” of the blast, the environmental protection agency said in a statement.

Environmental officials also want the company to hand over information to help determine the blast’s environmental impact, including data on chemicals and air emissions the explosion released, the statement said.

The blast at 11:30 a.m. on Dec. 13 rocked the plant at 131st Street and South Homan Avenue, triggering a major emergency response from 40 area fire departments, the SouthtownStar reported at the time.

Two employees were burned in the explosion and fire, which destroyed a storage facility and damaged other buildings at the plant.

The explosion and fire followed a chemical release in the factory’s cumene unit, which manufactures phenol and acetone. The process to produce the chemicals runs continuously, and the two reactors used to store the chemicals were not damaged, plant manager Bill Moffatt said Friday.

Alsip Fire Chief Tom Styczynski said the day of the explosion that he did not believe the fire and resulting fumes posed any threat to nearby residents.

But the IEPA statement says officials have yet to determine what materials were actually involved in the explosion.

Investigators are also looking into whether Blue Island Phenol violated any of several state consent orders it was already working under, stemming from prior incidents.

The EPA is also asking to see a work plan for clean-up of the site, and documentation on all contact between citizens and local officials about the blast.

OSHA also is investigating the explosion. Spokesman Scott Allen said the plant has been cited multiple times, including a violation for occupational exposure to hazardous chemicals in a laboratory after an inspection in February. The plant was assessed a $1,000 fine.



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