OSHA opens federal investigation into BioUrja plant explosion with damage estimated at more than $2 million

Update 6:43pm – Newly obtained video shows the moment grain dust caught fire and exploded at the Peoria ethanol plant.

Video obtained from the source of the explosion at the Peoria Peoria plant shows the eastern side of the Illinois River. In the video, smoke and fire shot hundreds of feet into the air.

As of 6 p.m. Thursday, nearly 24 hours later, the fire is still burning. Interim Fire Chief Sean Solberger says that’s likely to be the case for several days.

Despite the scale of the explosion, only two factory employees were injured, both of whom were treated for smoke inhalation and are expected to be fine. Sollberger credits the company for safely getting its employees out on short notice.

“This is nothing but a miracle, that we are only dealing with two minor injuries,” Solberger said. “It was less than five minutes from recognizing the time of the explosion…They did everything exactly right in that moment.”

Grain and dust were scattered on the ground Thursday, around collapsed silos. Several agencies are investigating the cause of the explosion. Sollberger said it started when the dust touched a spark. He says their main priority on Wednesday night was to ensure there was no second explosion.

“When we’re dealing with grain and corn, it’s explosive,” Solberger said. “So in cases that aren’t considered highly flammable, if they’re looking for a source of ignition, what are they going to do – are they going to explode.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has opened an inspection, and we’re told that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is also involved. This is normal procedure for an incident like this, says Peoria County EMA Director Jason Marks.

“Entities like this are on the scene to make sure that during the response, there is the safety of the responders,” Marks said.

BioUrja did not immediately respond to a call for comment Thursday.

Update: 11:43 a.m. – Peoria Fire President Shaun Solberger said appropriate monitoring and scene assessments are underway at this time.

He also says that the estimated damage is too early to assess and that the cause is under investigation.

Update: 10:48 a.m. – A federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation into the explosion has been opened.

Federal OSHA District Administrator Barry Salerlo confirmed that OSHA is currently on site.

No further information is available until the investigation is complete, which may take up to six months, which is the maximum time by law.

PEORIA (Heart of Illinois ABC) – As of 7:03 a.m. Thursday, Peoria firefighters and the Peoria Hazardous Materials Management Team are still at the scene.

According to a press release from Peoria Battalion Chief Steve Rada, “Due to the severity of the accident, crews were unable to enter to completely extinguish the fire. Fire crews are currently monitoring the situation from a distance due to structural issues as well as the high level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”

Rady stressed that there is no danger to the public, and the damages resulting from this incident are estimated at more than two million dollars.

The cause of the “big bang in the grain” is still being investigated.

Firefighters were called Wednesday evening to the BioUrja corn processing plant owned by ADM.

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