UPDATE: Illinois EPA Issues Update on June Seward Explosion and Fire

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UPDATE: SEWARD (WIFR) – The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA) today issued an update to the public regarding an explosion and fire that took place at Nova-Kem Chemicals Company on June 2-3, 2013.
The portions of the facility that were affected by the fire have been demolished and the residual chemicals and chemical containers have been packaged and taken off-site. The site is undergoing an environmental investigation with oversight by the Illinois EPA and the Agency is reviewing the Root Cause Analysis report regarding the possible cause of the incident. Once the investigation is complete, decisions can be made regarding the extent of cleanup actions necessary on the facility or in off-site areas.

Environmental sampling has been conducted by the Illinois EPA and a consultant for Nova-Kem on a number of residential properties to evaluate whether trace chemicals were deposited by the smoke plume during the fire. The Illinois EPA will hold a public availability session to discuss these findings and other concerns area residents may have on Wednesday, September 11th at 6:30 p.m. at the Seward School Center located at 2970 Tracey Street in Seward.

Illinois EPA also announced that Nova-Kem will be allowed to conduct limited manufacturing operations at its facility in Seward, under conditions of certain safety requirements. Nova-Kem is currently under a court order to cease and desist all operations at the facility unless the Illinois EPA and Illinois OAG agree to allow them.

These limited operations, which begin August 29th, will involve a process and location that is different and separate from the production process that was involved in the June 2-3 incident. The decision was made after careful evaluation and consultation with experts at the Illinois EPA regarding the technical aspects and risks involved in the chemical process. Precautions that are being required by the two agencies include:

  • Operations may resume only after the local fire department has inspected the premises and evaluated safety measures.
  • An Emergency Notification system must be operated at the Specialty Products Building
  • A fire alarm with remote notification must be installed within two weeks.
  • Chemicals not used in the current process will be removed from or segregated in a separate room in the Specialty Products Building
  • Technical operators must be present during the entire production process
  • Illinois EPA will inspect and monitor the process.

    Production of yttrium lanthanum nitrate solution will occur between August 29, 2013 and the end of November, 2013 at the Specialty Products Building, which was not involved in the June 2-3 fire and will be making use of materials already at the facility.

    The process is unrelated to the production of hexachlorodisilane – the primary product made at the main production building that burned.

    For more information and continued updates on the situation, visit http://www.epa.state.il.us/community-relations/fact-sheets/nova-kem/index.html.

    SEWARD (WIFR) -- It's been nearly three months since a Seward chemical plant exploded, causing an extreme fire and the evacuation of hundreds of neighbors. On Tuesday, those neighbors got some of their questions answered about what happened that day and what’s in store for the future of the site.

    Nearly 100 people attended the town hall meeting in Seward hosted by Nova-Kem. The company's president, Reno Novak, says he's still waiting on results from an outside report to show exactly what caused June’s blast, however, he says it was likely a valve malfunction. Workers have been removing chemicals from the site for months, dirt has been tested and hauled away, and a few empty tanks remain on the demolished site. Novak says he's still not sure whether the company will rebuild in Seward, something neighbors weren’t happy about.

    "I was very disappointed; I wanted some commitment from Reno Novak that he was not going to continue operations in Seward Township, and I didn't get that at all,” says Sandi Milburn, who lives near the plant.

    “I would like to make sure we go over the safety plan, there business continuity plan to make sure that it is really going to, that he sees the reaction of the community and just take those extra steps to make it happen so we can feel safe," says neighbor Tari Woods.

    The Illinois EPA is holding a town hall style meeting in Seward on September 11th. At that meeting, residents are expected to find out more about the chemical contamination at the site and if there will be any long term effects from the explosion.

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