Blast Impact: Chem Plant OK

Friday, October 4, 2013 @ 02:10 PM gHale


It all started in early June, when an explosion at the Nova-Kem plant rocked the tiny village of Seward, IL. In the wake of the West, TX, disaster, not only did residents fear for the immediate consequences, but also for the long term impact.

That is why the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) revealed the results of prolonged air quality testing three months after the blast.

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No one ended up hurt in the blast and the IEPA said it has not been a cause of significant environmental problems since.

“We haven’t seen any sampling results that show any levels of concern yet,” said IEPA Emergency Response Office Engineering & Assessment Unit Manager Yeric Yarrington.

IEPA’s lab analyzed soil, surface water and vegetation samples all from properties near the Nova-Kem site. Test results are normal so far, but the agency is asking Nova-Kem to evaluate more properties a few miles south, southeast and southwest of the Seward site.

“At the time of the fire, the plume had a lot of heat, so it rises first and then it travels off-site. The plume looked to be somewhere around 500 feet high. When it’s that high, you’ll have some deposition close by, but you’ll have some deposition farther away because the heat carries the ash and smoke up and then it’s carried in the wind direction,” said Carol Fuller, with the IEPA Community Relations Office.

The IEPA also wants Nova-Kem to do more on-site sampling of any possible chemical residue from the day of the accident, or from demolition of the buildings.

Nova-Kem gained permission from the IEPA and Illinois Attorney General’s Office to operate out of its Specialty Products building, manufacturing an yttrium lanthanum nitrate solution. Company representatives said it the water-based product is not hazardous. They’ve been manufacturing it since the end of August. Per IEPA and IOAG instructions, Nova-Kem had to take precautions before starting production, like having the local fire department evaluate safety measures at the site, installing a fire alarm, and allowing the IEPA to periodically inspect and monitor operations.

The product has to completely ship off-site by December 2013. If Nova-Kem wants to continue operating out of the Seward site after that, they need to consult the IEPA and IOAG.



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