Illinois EPA seeks court order halting operations at Hoopeston factory following fire - : Hoopeston Chronicle

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Illinois EPA seeks court order halting operations at Hoopeston factory following fire

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Posted: Thursday, June 20, 2013 12:19 am | Updated: 2:54 pm, Fri Jun 21, 2013.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is seeking an injunction against further operations at the site of a massive fire in Hoopeston Wednesday.

IEPA Director Lisa Bonnett, according a news release, asked Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office to seek an immediate injunctive court order halting operations at J&R Used Tire Services, located at 103 E. Maple St. in Hoopeston.

The factory was the site of a massive fire, fueled by a multitude of tires that were stored on the premises, that is still burning as firefighters from various departments around the region work to extinguish it.

Firefighters were called to the scene at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday after workers at the factory reported the fire, which apparently began in the facility's loading docks.

The building was fully engulfed in flames only minutes after it was reported and firefighters arrived on scene. Due to the nature of the fire, fire crews remained outside and focused on containing the fire.

Hoopeston Fire Chief Cliff Crabtree reported almost the entire building has been destroyed by the fire, with only a two sections remaining where the roof has caved in.

Crabtree estimated that crews will likely be on scene for the next 24-36 hours, as of 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, working to extinguish the fire.

Lance Smith, general manager of the factory who spoke to reporters Wednesday, said the factory housed multiple types of tires, including car, semi and tractor tires, that were stored throughout the entire facility.

He said the factory's owner, Rodney Rogers, is assessing what will be the future of the business. Smith said Rogers hopes to keep the business operational and in Hoopeston.

However, the fire represents a significant loss in terms of equipment and facilities for the business.

Smith estimates just one of the machines in the facility costs approximately $1 million, so losing most of the machines in the factory will likely represent a loss of between $10-$15 million in terms of equipment.

The factory, which employed 38 workers, of whom roughly half were from Hoopeston, was in the process of installing a new paint system that would have expanded it's services, but Smith said that system had even gotten up and running yet.

Smith said they are already looking for ways to get up and running again at some point in the future and they hope to remain in Hoopeston.

The factory, according to the news release, is a commercial tire transporter and tire processing facility that has approximately 59 permitted vehicles. The facility is located in an area which includes both business and private homes. The site had accumulated approximately 200,000 passenger tire equivalents (PTE) used/waste tires on-site, an estimated 2,500 tons, in either whole or shredded tires.

The fire and the possible toxic contaminants it may have spread is the cause of the request for an injunction against the facility's owner.

Bonnett cited an IEPA inspection report from Feb. 6 which resulted in "multiple allegations of permit violations, including underestimating the amount of materials present at the site and not providing an emergency contingency response plan to local police and fire departments."

She said, in the news release, that the IEPA issued the facility a "formal Violation Notice" in late March and had not received a response from the owner of the facility.

The IEPA is seeking an injunction that would require the facility's owner to: "cease and desist from any and all activities on-site, including but not limited to the continued storage of used or waste tire on-site;" "assess damage done by the fire;" "hire an environmental consultant to investigate and remedy on-site as well as off-site issues created by the incident;" and "remove and properly dispose of any remaining waste."

Agents from both the Illinois and federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have been on scene since the fire began monitoring air quality.

IEPA Public Information Officer Andrew Mason said normal air quality levels for the area would be 0.15 particulates per cubic liter.

Mason said levels were five times that at 8 p.m. Wednesday, though they had fallen to three times that by midnight and were within acceptable limits by Thursday morning.

He said agents remained on-site to continue monitoring the situation as the fire continued to burn.

In addition to the effects the smoke may have on human health and the environment, the IEPA was also concerned with run-off issues from the water used to fight the fire that may allow contaminants from the fire to neighboring properties or into sewage/storm water systems.

Alderman Bill McElhaney, water committee chairman, said that a drain had been installed on the east side of the railroad tracks near Casey's several years ago under Mayor Bob Ault. This drain was installed to allow for the roof run-off from the FMC building. Any water from that location will naturally drain there.

The concern is that run-off from the copious amounts of water being used to douse the tires, which are petroleum-based products that break down into toxins when melting, will mix with the toxic chemicals it is being used to put out and drain into the a nearby creek.

Mason said the water from this drain was directed into a retention pond nearby, which was dammed off and had filters installed to prevent the contamination from spreading.

He said the full extent of environmental damage from the fire will not be determined until after the EPA can discover what exactly was burned and what possible toxins may have gotten loose.

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