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Formosa Plant Information

This page will be used to post any information that is made available to us in reference to the plant explosion.

Posted 05/05/05

State of Illinois Rod R. Blagojevich, Governor

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency

Renee Cipriano, Director

 

Fact Sheet #4

Formosa Plastics Corporation Site

Illiopolis, Illinois

 

Background: It has been a year since the explosion and subsequent fire that destroyed much of the

Formosa Plastics Corporation, Illinois plant in Illiopolis (between Springfield and Decatur). Since that

time, certain work has occurred to make the site more stable and safer for site workers as well as the

community. Further activities related to demolition will be happening this year.

Long-term site work will include a comprehensive investigation of the site to fully characterize

environmental contaminants. That will be undertaken once the demolition work has been accomplished.

Illinois EPA continues to have a presence on the site and will be periodically updating the site contact list

about activities there.

 

Have all the hazardous chemicals been removed from the site?

No. Last year, Formosa drained the large gas spheres, which contained vinyl chloride monomer (VCM). This raw material was pumped into rail tank cars and hauled away for use by other plants. Vinyl acetate was also removed from storage tanks and shipped off-site. Polyvinyl chloride pellets, the nonhazardous product of plant processes, were sold to other companies or disposed in a landfill. Some drums of chemicals and asbestos-containing debris were also removed from the site.

 

What chemicals remain on the site? 

Illinois EPA does not yet know the extent of chemicals that remain. Most of the chemicals were burned in the fire. Illinois EPA is asking Formosa to identify what chemicals are still on site once certain portions of the site are safe to enter. This will occur after some of the demolition and shoring work. It is probable that only a small number of containers of chemicals still remain on-site. A temporary pipeline has been installed to collect any VCM or vinyl acetate remaining in tanks and vessels. This gas will be burned in the Trane incinerator on-site.

 

How will remaining chemicals be handled? Once chemicals are identified, they will be sampled and analyzed. Results from those tests will dictate disposition of the chemicals. Some may be sold to other plants; others may

have to be disposed as hazardous or special waste; some may be used to augment the wastewater treatment system; and some will simply be burned on-site.

 

When chemicals are burned in the incinerator, does that produce hazardous air emissions?

The Trane incinerator employs a scrubber unit to capture gases from burning chemicals. Emissions from the Trane are tightly controlled and monitored. Illinois EPA staff will be on the site during the work. Illinois EPA’s On-Scene Coordinator has the authority to stop work if problems develop.

 

What are the tank cars for that were recently brought to the site?

Formosa needed to purge the remainder of liquid waste and a small amount of gas from the large gasholder on the north side of the plant. The liquid was sent to the dozen or so tank cars to be disposed of appropriately. The residual gas was pumped to the Trane incinerator and burned.

 

Are the large spheres completely empty now?

Yes. All residual VCM material was purged and burned in the Trane incinerator. The spheres have been filled with nitrogen, a non-flammable gas. 

 

When demolition work begins,  should I be concerned about demolition debris, including asbestos, blowing off the site?

Blowing debris or particulates should not be a problem. As part of the demolition work plans for the site, contractors will spray water when working with asbestos or other materials that might generate dust. This should effectively keep the materials on the site. In addition, there will be daily monitoring of asbestos in the work zones.

 

 Does Illinois EPA monitor run-off  and other plant discharges from the site?

Yes. Formosa conducts daily testing of the wastewater treat-ment system to monitor its discharge to the unnamed stream  that flows southeast of the plant. In addition to all wastewater from the industrial operations, all on-site storm water runoff is retained and treated. Shortly after the April 2004 incident and currently, the effluent has been in compliance with the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit that regulates discharges from the

facility. Illinois EPA staff continues to monitor the wastewater treatment system on a weekly basis.

 

What can you tell us about the water quality in the ditches and streams that run south of the site?

Since the April 2004 incident, the Illinois EPA has routinely collected samples at the wastewater treatment system

discharge location, upstream, and at four stream locations downstream from the Formosa plant. Sample results to date have shown low concentrations of site-related contaminants in the plant discharge, but no levels exceeding state criteria for human health or aquatic life protection have been found in downstream waters. Illinois EPA staff has resumed the bi-weekly chemical  sampling. This fall, Illinois EPA staff will perform a facility related stream survey that includes chemical monitoring and a biological survey of the stream.

 

Has Illinois EPA tested for site related  chemicals in the groundwater that supplies private wells in the area?

Yes. Illinois EPA accompanied a contractor for Formosa to take groundwater samples from monitoring wells on site and at one private well down gradient from the site. Tests of the on-site monitoring wells continue to show volatile

organic chemicals (VOCs), such as vinyl chloride, and some levels of metals. The private well test did not appear to show any site-related chemicals.

 

When will the site be completely investigated for chemical contamination?

For the most part, the remedial investigation won’t fully start until the demolition activities are completed. Then, Formosa will submit a work plan to Illinois EPA for the site investigation based on current site conditions at the time. A limited number of pre-demolition samples have been collected and analyzed. 

 

Is the state able to assist the Village of Illiopolis with rerouting the water mains from the Formosa site for the Public Water System?

Yes. From a news release on February 22, 2005 by the Governor’s Office: "$200,000 in Opportunity Returns grants have been awarded to the Village of Illiopolis. The grants will be used to redirect the community's water supply… Currently, the water main is routed underneath Formosa's facility before it proceeds into the village. With the state's support, the water main will be rerouted from plant property to along Route 36." One half the money came from Illinois EPA and one half was provided by the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

 

Other fact sheets may be found on the Agency’s web site at epa.state.il.us. Go to Citizens’ Information Center, Community Relations, and Fact Sheets. For further information, you may contact:

Carol L. Fuller                                                         Joe Dombrowski                

Illinois EPA Community Relations Coord.                Illinois EPA Project Manager

Office of Community Relations                                 Bureau of Land, State Sites Unit

217/524-8807                                                         217/558-2564

carol.fuller@epa.state.il.us                                        joe.dombrowski@epa.state.il.us

 

 

Formosa Plastics site

Illiopolis, Illinois

Printed by Authority of

The State of Illinois

May-2005 34528 800

Posted 9/04/04

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency

Office of Community Relations     1021 North Grand Avenue East      Springfield, Illinois 62702

Fact Sheet #3  - August 2004  

 Formosa Plastics Corporation Site

Illiopolis, Illinois 

Background:  The Formosa Plastics Corporation plant is located near Illiopolis, between Springfield and Decatur along I-72.  On April 23, 2004, an explosion occurred at the plant followed by a fire that burned for several days.   Illinois EPA, along with other agencies, have worked to test air quality during and after the fire, water quality in creeks and streams near the site and the safety of the drinking water supply.  Illinois EPA will continue to have a long-term presence at the site in the form of oversight regarding site investigation and proper cleanup of contamination.

 Dioxins and other chlorinated chemicals may have been formed during the smoldering phases of the fire at the plant.  A few initial samples were taken to test for dioxins on the site.  In addition, initial sampling of 13 public and private properties was performed on June 30, 2004 by Formosa, with oversight by Illinois EPA.  The results of those screening samples showed the presence of low levels of dioxins.  Illinois EPA requested that Formosa have the same 13 samples analyzed by a laboratory that could run a complete analysis for dioxins, which confirmed the findings of the screening tests.

 On July 16th, Illinois EPA approved a comprehensive sampling plan for Formosa to look for dioxins and other compounds potentially related to the explosion/fire both on site and off site (including private properties and farmland).  Results from the first round of samples collected on July 21st and 22nd have also been received.

 


What are dioxins?

 Dioxins are a family of 75 chemically related compounds commonly known as chlorinated dioxins.  They are mainly formed during human activities such as: the chlorine bleaching process at paper mills; chlorination at wastewater treatment plants; and in burning of municipal waste and backyard trash burning.

Do results from sampling on private property indicate that there are levels of dioxins or other chemicals that could be a hazard to public health?

 No.  Some of the results of the lab analysis on the soil samples show dioxins at levels slightly greater than the national “background” level.  (Background levels exist across the country, since dioxins are formed through many human activities, as mentioned above.)  The levels of dioxins found on private properties are not expected to cause adverse health effects for the general public, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH).  No other site-related chemicals were detected in the samples taken.

 Are the vegetables in our gardens safe to eat?

 Yes.  The laboratory results show very low concentrations of dioxins in the vegetables sampled that are representative of background levels found in vegetables grown anywhere.  IDPH recommends that residents wash vegetables in soapy water and scrub or peel root vegetables prior to eating, just as a precaution.

 Is it safe for children to play outdoors?

 Yes.  According to IDPH, the low levels of dioxins found in soils on private properties do not present a short-term or long-term public health hazard.  The route of exposure would be from ingesting soil, so it is not likely that people would be exposed to dioxins in sufficient quantity to cause adverse health effects.

 How are people exposed to dioxins?

 Nationwide – people are exposed to dioxins mainly by eating food products that contain low levels of dioxins.  Meat, dairy products and fish make up the bulk of the dioxins intake for the general population, again as a result of the background amount of dioxins in the environment. Dioxins tend to accumulate in fat and tissue over time.

 How can people limit their exposures to potential contamination from dioxins in the soil?

 Precautions to limit exposures include good hygiene such as hand washing and washing vegetables from the garden.  After children come indoors from playing, parents probably want to make sure they wash up and remove their shoes at the door.  To further reduce exposures to environmental contaminants that may be present in the soil, IDPH recommends that residents maintain a cover of vegetation (grass) in play areas.

 Where can I find out more about dioxins?

 A fact sheet about dioxins can be found at the following web site for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR):  http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/tfacts104.html

 Will there be a comprehensive environmental investigation at the site?

 Illinois EPA requested that Formosa initiate a comprehensive sampling plan for all site-related chemicals in soils, surface water and groundwater.  Most of this work has been completed. The results from current sampling show some levels of dioxins on the site greater than national background levels.  Worker safety issues will be addressed in a site safety plan being developed in conjunction with Formosa Plastics.   The routes of exposure of concern would be ingesting soils or inhaling airborne dust contaminated with dioxins.

 The focus of site work now will be on cleanup of the site contaminants and efforts to reduce any further contamination during demolition activities.  Illinois EPA will have oversight during this work.      

 Will additional samples be taken on private properties?

 There is no need for follow up sampling at most of the locations tested.  However, Illinois EPA may conduct limited follow up sampling at private property locations at or near where the highest dioxin results were found.  If new information should lead to a concern about off-site contamination, Illinois EPA will make sure that it is investigated.

 What is the next step in the Illinois EPA’s investigation at the facility?

 Formosa Plastics has hired two contractors to perform an investigation and cleanup of the damaged portion of the facility.  It is anticipated that it will begin in a few weeks and will take approximately four months to complete.  Illinois EPA will assist with development of the Site Safety Plan.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will have responsibility for approval of the plan.  Illinois EPA will have a contractor on-site to observe and document work performed under this phase of the project.  When it is necessary to disturb contaminated soil, steps will be taken to minimize dust generation and workers will wear appropriate safety equipment. Additionally, air monitoring will be required to insure that measures to reduce dust are effective.

For more information, please contact:

Carol L. Fuller                                                 Joe Dombrowski

Illinois EPA                                                      Illinois EPA

Community Relations Coordinator                 Project Manager

Office of Community Relations                      Bureau of Land, State Sites Unit

217/524-8807                                                  217/558-2564

carol.fuller@epa.state.il.us                             joe.dombrowski@epa.state.il.us

 

Michael Moomey, Section Chief

Toxicology Section, Environmental Health

Illinois Department of Public Health

525 W. Jefferson Street

Springfield, Illinois  62761

217/782-5830

cmoomey@idph.state.il.us

 

Posted 7/22/04

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency

P.O. Box 19276  Springfield, Illinois 62794-9276

July 2004

Formosa Plastics Corporation Site

Illiopolis, Illinois

July 16, 2004 Update

To keep you apprised of the most recent information concerning the work Illinois EPA and other agencies are doing in the aftermath of the Formosa April 23 explosion and resulting fire, we are providing you with this update.

On June 30, Illinois EPA accompanied a Formosa contractor as they collected samples from properties that we believe may have been in the path of smoke from either the initial explosion or the fire.

Illinois EPA received the sample results late Wednesday, July 14. They were immediately provided to the agency toxicologist for review. The toxicologist evaluated the results, along with Illinois Department of Public Health toxicologists.

Low levels of dioxin were found in the sample results. However, these results were low enough that neither agency considers them either an immediate or long-term health risk.

These findings were not unexpected, since dioxin is commonly found when certain chemicals are burned. Dioxins can also come from numerous other sources such as burn barrels.

When the toxicological review was completed, the private property owners were immediately notified of their own results, along with recommendations to minimize any exposure to the chemicals. It is important to note that more extensive analyses will be needed before definitive findings can be established.

Along with soil samples, vegetable samples were collected to ensure that private gardens were not affected. All vegetable sample results were below established background levels provided by U.S.EPA. "Background" is used to measure the potential for elevated levels of any contaminant, and is collected from an area unlikely to be affected, then compared with the sample results.

While the Illinois EPA does not consider the results to be at levels that would be a health concern, they do show that some dioxin is present and has asked Formosa to do more extensive sampling.

The next phase of the investigation is scheduled to begin next week. This will consist of sampling on Formosa property, including the property's perimeter, along with some additional sampling on selected private property.

Media contacts: Maggie Carson, Illinois EPA, 217/557-8138

Tom Schafer, Illinois Department of Public Health, 217/782-5750

Community contact: Carol Fuller, Illinois EPA 217/524-8807

 

Posted 6/22/04

Formosa Plastics Site Update

Illiopolis, Illinois

At the Public Availability Session, held in Illiopolis on Wednesday, June 16, some issues or concerns were raised. While a great deal of investigation on and off the site will be needed to fully characterize the environmental contamination, the following are responses from professionals working in specific areas of expertise.

Q – Is it safe to eat produce from my garden?

A – Yes. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, as a precaution, and to avoid the potential for exposure to chemicals, one should thoroughly wash produce with soapy water before eating it and peel root vegetables. Keep in mind that, if the fruit or vegetable was not present at the time of the explosion and fire (April 23 – 25), residue or soot from the fire would not be deposited on it.

Field crops, such as corn and soybeans, should not be affected by any residue. At the time of the explosion, the plants were not at the seed development stage. Therefore, the ear or pod would not be contaminated. We will be collecting samples from pasture areas, as well as gardens, as part of our overall investigation.

Q – Has the air quality remained healthy since the incident?

A – Yes. All of the air monitoring that has occurred since the April 23 explosion and subsequent fire showed that levels of vinyl chloride (the chemical of concern for this site) and asbestos have remained at safe levels in the community.

Q- Is it safe for my children to play in the yard and come in contact with soil and vegetation? Would there be residue from the explosion or fire that might cause harm to human health?

A – According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, any residue from the explosion or fire that may have deposited onto your property would not be expected to cause adverse health effects from playing outside. However, as a precaution, Illinois EPA is requesting that Formosa collect soil samples, with Agency oversight, in each direction from the plant to find out whether dioxin or other chemical compounds were deposited on private or public properties. Dioxin is potentially hazardous if persons are exposed to low levels for long periods of time. Given the short time since the explosion and fire and the fact that results of the sampling should be available by early August, IDPH does not recommend any changes in outdoor activities at this time.

Illinois EPA staff will be talking to residents one-on-one during the week of June 21, to set up sampling locations. We expect to have the results of the sampling within three weeks from the time of the environmental sampling, and we will inform the individual property owners of their results. They will also be summarized for the public.

Q – What is the progress of the investigation into the sick cattle herds?

After receiving recent reports from the University of Illinois Extension Service of sick cattle herds in the vicinity of the Formosa facility, the Illinois EPA and Illinois Department of Agriculture met with the Extension Service and the private veterinarian who treated the cattle to determine the appropriate next steps. The cattle showed symptoms, such as fever and loss of weight, that experts concluded could be consistent with ingesting grasses contaminated with the chemicals of the type emitted from the plant during the fire. In addition, after changing their food source, most of the animals began to improve. Tissue samples were collected from the animals, and samples are being collected from the pastures where the cattle had grazed. Results from these analyses may help determine the cause or causes of the illness.

Other issues that were raised at the public meeting included comments about management practices that led to an unsafe situation at the plant. One resident had concerns about pets (dogs) that became sick right after the explosion and fire. Since it wasn’t reported at the time, no tests were performed on the animals for site-related chemicals.

Issues regarding air quality and drinking water safety are covered in Illinois EPA’s fact sheet #2, available on the web site: http://www.epa.state.il.us/community-relations/fact-sheets/formosa-plastics/index.html

Media contact: Maggie Carson

Illinois EPA

217/557-8138 maggie.carson@epa.state.il.us

Community contact: Carol Fuller

Illinois EPA

217/524-8807

carol.fuller@epa.state.il.us

 

Posted 6/17/04

Fact Sheet #2 

Formosa Plastics Corporation Site

Illiopolis, Illinois  

Background:  The Formosa Plastics Corporation plant is located near Illiopolis, between Springfield and Decatur along I-72.  Since the April 23, 2004 explosion and resulting fire occurred at the plant, Illinois EPA, along with other agencies, have worked to test air quality during and after the fire, water quality in creeks and streams near the site and the safety of the drinking water supply.  Additional sampling has been performed by the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health (CTEH), an environmental firm hired by Formosa. This fact sheet is a summary of all the environmental sampling data gathered to date.

 Illinois EPA will continue to have a long-term presence at the site in the form of oversight regarding site investigation and proper cleanup of contamination.

   

What sort of air quality testing was done during the fire, right after the explosion?

Illinois EPA’s Office of Emergency Response (OER) was on the site within two hours after the explosion.  They brought instruments to the site to test the air around the plant for total volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which represent the family of chemicals of concern at a plastics plant.  OER checked for (1) any immediate threat to first responders or to Illinois EPA staff at the site and (2) the presence of VOCs that would indicate whether vinyl chloride (the main chemical of concern) was present in the air.  Results of the screening sampling provided the necessary information to choose proper protective equipment for site workers and emergency responders as well as those in a command position outside the main fire area.

Locations that were tested for total VOCs on Saturday, April 24 included:  I-72 where the plume crossed the road; the road just south of the plant; Mechanicsburg; Buffalo and Lanesville; as well as on the plant property.  During the two days following the explosion and fire, OER sampled on the plant property and around the entire perimeter.  During that time, no chemical contamination was found at a level that would present a hazard for public health in the community.

When the initial readings showed total VOCs close to a worker safety level, a more chemical-specific piece of equipment was used – a Draeger system – which can test for the presence of vinyl chloride.  This was used in two instances, on Cope Road and along I-72 in the smoke plume.  The results for vinyl chloride were ten times less than the worker safety standard.

Hydrochloric acid gas (HCl), a by-product of burning vinyl chloride, was also monitored during the fire by CTEH, and no contamination levels were found in the air in the community.  Nor did Illinois EPA’s OER observe the presence of HCl during the two days after the blast (even when staff was in the smoke plume), and HCl would produce obvious discomfort (e.g., burning of eyes, burning in lungs), if this chemical were present at even fairly low levels.

I understand that Formosa hired CTEH, an environmental engineering firm, to perform air monitoring on the site and in the community.  Have any of the test results revealed chemical levels that a present a hazard for public health?

No.  Sampling results for vinyl chloride and asbestos fibers has continued in the community since the fire.  Formosa sends a daily report to Illinois EPA with the previous day’s findings.  To date, none of the sampling results have exceeded recommended federal safety standards.  An asbestos standard has been established for site workers, with asbestos fibers not to exceed 0.1 fiber per cubic centimeter of air in the work zone.  While there is no established level for asbestos in a community, Illinois Department of Public Health reviews measurements made in the outside air and compares those to this worker safety number.  The measurements in the community have so far stayed from one to four percent of the worker safety standard, and that is considered within “background levels” of asbestos in most urban areas and safe for the general population.

Vinyl chloride and other VOCs would not normally be found in “background” samples.  However, the trace amounts of these site-related contaminants continue to be measured in the low parts per million range on the site, within federal air emissions standards.  In the community, the measurements show no detectable amounts for vinyl chloride. 

What sampling was done on the public drinking water supply?

Illinois EPA staff collected water samples for VOCs and bacteria from five locations within the Illiopolis community water supply, the water supply at Illiopolis/Formosa Plastics, and the Mt. Auburn and Mechanicsburg-Buffalo community water supply wells.  The results of these samples were all negative for site-related contamination.  In addition, Illinois EPA staff made an inspection of the structural integrity of the interconnected Illiopolis/ Formosa Plastics water supplies.  At this time, the Illinois EPA is confident that the system’s integrity was not compromised by the explosion or subsequent fire.  Illiopolis will continue to monitor VOCs at the public water supply plant on a monthly basis for the next several months.

What can you tell us about the water quality in the ditches and streams that run south of the site?

Illinois EPA staff performed water sampling at the plant discharge location, upstream, and at six stream locations downstream from the Formosa plant.  The samples were collected in an unnamed stream flowing southeast from the plant, in Long Point Slough, and in the Sangamon River.  Following the explosion, a volume of fire fighting runoff water was released.  However, an earthen dike was constructed on Saturday, April 24, 2004 and plant runoff from the affected area was retained on the site.

Full treatment resumed at the wastewater treatment plant on Saturday evening following the explosion and fire. The treatment plant continues to operate normally at a reduced load (since the plant is not in operation). Sample results to date have shown low concentrations of site related contaminants in the plant discharge, but no levels exceeding state criteria for human health or aquatic life protection have been found in downstream waters.  Illinois EPA staff continue to monitor the treatment plant at least once per week.

Additionally, Illinois EPA staff, along with Illinois Department of Natural Resources biologists, made repeated observations of the stream macroinvertebrates (small bugs), fish, any odors or visible sheen both upstream and downstream from the site.  To date, no apparent adverse effects were observed in the stream organisms.  Illinois EPA will continue chemical sampling of the unnamed stream every other week and will perform a facility-related stream survey this summer, which includes chemical monitoring and a biological survey.

Dioxin may have been formed during the smoldering phases of the fire at the plant.  A few initial samples were taken to test for dioxin on the site.  Only one sample that was taken in sediments at the surface water outfall showed dioxin at a level (in parts per trillion) that is slightly greater than the U.S. EPA comparable background level used for screening.  Based on the limited dioxin sampling done so far, Illinois EPA has determined that a more extensive sampling project (both on and off the site) is needed to define whether dioxin is present above background levels, and whether it is an issue of concern.  Formosa is developing a work plan for this activity. 

Will there be a comprehensive environmental investigation at the site?

Yes.  Illinois EPA has requested that Formosa provide a comprehensive sampling plan for all site-related chemicals in soils, surface water and groundwater both on and off the plant site.  Illinois EPA will have oversight for the environmental investigation and will split a certain number of samples with the Illinois EPA to confirm analytical results.  Much of the environmental sampling on the site will follow the completion of the investigations being conducted by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board and OSHA as to the cause of the incident. 

For more information, please contact:

Carol L. Fuller                                                 Joe Dombrowski

Illinois EPA                                                      Illinois EPA

Community Relations Coordinator                 Project Manager

Office of Community Relations                      Bureau of Land, State Sites Unit

217/524-8807                                                  217/558-2564

carol.fuller@epa.state.il.us                             joe.dombrowski@epa.state.il.us

 

Michael Moomey, Section Chief

Toxicology Section, Environmental Health

Illinois Department of Public Health

525 W. Jefferson Street

Springfield, Illinois  62761

217/782-5830

cmoomey@idph.state.il.us

Posted 6/7/04

In order to give the citizens of Illiopolis an opportunity to meet with state and local officials to discuss the ongoing investigation at the Formosa Plastics plant, we are holding a

Public Availability Session

Date:                  Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Time:                   4:00 to 7:00 p.m.

Location:         Illiopolis High School on Matilda Street

                              (from I-72, exit north to Illiopolis; turn right just before Citco onto Matilda)

Participants:         Village of Illiopolis               Sangamon County Public Health Dept.

                        Formosa Plastic Corp.                Illinois Dept. of Public Health

                              and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency                  

 Format:              The state and local agencies will have staff available to answer questions from the public about the status of environmental sampling and about health concerns.  It will be an open-house format, and citizens may attend at their convenience during the three-hour session.  The facility is handicap accessible.  

History:             Since the April 23, 2004 explosion occurred at the Formosa Plastics plant, located near Illiopolis, between Springfield and Decatur, Illinois EPA and other agencies have worked to test air quality during and after the fire, water quality in creeks and streams near the site and the safety of the drinking water supply.  Additional sampling has been performed by the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health (CTEH), an environmental firm hired by Formosa.  Illinois EPA will continue to have a long-term presence at the site in the form of oversight regarding site investigation and proper cleanup of contamination.  

Please Note:  The Public Availability Session will not offer comment on the ongoing investigations by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regarding the cause of the explosion and fire.

Contacts:          For additional information, please call or email:

Illinois EPA:

Carol Fuller

Community Relations Coordinator

217/524-8807

Carol.Fuller@epa.state.il.us

Illinois EPA:

Joe Dombrowski

Bureau of Land Project Manager

217/558-2564

Joseph.Dombrowski@epa.state.il.us

 

Posted 5/12/04

Fact Sheet #1

Formosa Plastics Corporation Site

Illiopolis, Illinois

May 7, 2004

On Friday night, April 23, 2004, an explosion occurred at the Formosa Plastics Corporation plant in Illiopolis, located between Springfield and Decatur along I-72. Illinois EPA’s Emergency Response Unit staff were on site before midnight and began monitoring the air around the plant and in the community. During the weekend and the next week, other Illinois EPA staff worked with the Village of Illiopolis’ public water supply operator to test and insure the safety of the drinking water supply. Additional sampling was done along an unnamed creek just south of the site property, which continues east to the Long Point Slough and the Sangamon River. Since then, Illinois EPA has determined that a long-term presence at the site is needed in the form of oversight regarding site investigation and proper cleanup of contamination.

In an effort to keep the public abreast of ongoing Illinois EPA activities, the Agency wants to respond to the concerns and questions posed by the public to date:

Is the public drinking water safe?

Yes. Illinois EPA staff collected water samples for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and bacteria from five locations within the Illiopolis community water supply, the water supply at Illiopolis/Formosa Plastics, and the Mt. Auburn and Mechanicsburg-Buffalo community water supply wells. The results of these samples were all negative for contamination. In addition, Illinois EPA staff have made an inspection of the structural integrity of the interconnected Illiopolis/ Formosa Plastics water supplies. At this time, the Illinois EPA is confident that the system’s integrity was not compromised by the explosion or subsequent fire. Illiopolis will continue to monitor VOCs at the public water supply plant on a monthly basis. The duration of this increased monitoring will be dependent on the outcome of remediation efforts and contaminants present.

Was the stream or river contaminated by surface water running off of the site during the fire fighting?

Illinois EPA staff performed water sampling at the plant discharge location, upstream, and at six stream locations downstream from the Formosa plant. The samples were collected in an unnamed stream flowing southeast from the plant, in Long Point Slough, and in the Sangamon River. Following the explosion, a volume of fire fighting runoff water was released. Early Saturday, an earthen dike was constructed and, in combination with portable pumping equipment, plant runoff from the affected area was retained on-site.

The wastewater treatment plant was without power for about 20 hours following the explosion, but full treatment resumed on Saturday evening. Sample results to date have shown low concentrations of site related contaminants in the plant discharge, but no levels exceeding state criteria for aquatic life or human health protection have been found in downstream waters.

Additionally, IEPA staff, along with Illinois Department of Natural Resources biologists, made repeated observations of the stream macroinvertebrates (small bugs), fish, any odors or visible sheen both upstream and downstream from the site. To date, no apparent adverse effects were observed in the stream organisms. One more round of inspection and sampling is planned for the stream and river the week of May 10, and Illinois EPA will update the public about the findings. We will determine whether further sampling is needed based on the results.

Is the plant owner taking responsibility for any of the sampling or investigation?

Yes. The plant owners have cooperated with emergency response staff. Formosa has hired an environmental firm, Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health (CTEH), to perform a variety of environmental monitoring in and around the site and will continue to do so for an indefinite period.

Illinois EPA sent a letter to the plant owners on May 4, 2004, requesting a meeting in the next two weeks to discuss investigation and cleanup, protection of the drinking water supplies, results from air and water monitoring and future use and

 

Illinois Office of Community Relations May 2004

Environmental P.O. Box 19276

Protection Agency Springfield, Illinois 62794-9276

1 Printed on Recycled Paper 2 Printed on Recycled Paper

permitting issues.

Should I be worried that contamination from the explosion settled on my property or in my home?

Although air monitoring at the time of the fire found some elevated levels of vinyl chloride and hydrochloric acid directly in the plume at the facility fence line, nothing was found in the community near homes. Illinois EPA is in the process of collecting soil, sediment, and surface water samples to evaluate for the potential for residential contamination from the explosion and fire. Results of these efforts will help determine if any additional samples may be needed off-site from the Formsa property.

Debris from the explosion (mainly in the form of building materials and metal piping jacketing) traveled in all directions, and has been found to date as far as three miles away. Illinois EPA is working with Formosa to retrieve and consolidate this debris on-site now. If citizens find debris related to the incident, please contact Formosa at (217) 486-6500. (Please do not move the debris, since its location may assist the investigators.)

Is it safe to go ahead and plant a garden on my property?

At this time, Illinois EPA has no information that would lead us to believe that it is not safe to plant a garden. We expect to have further information, within the next few weeks, about environmental conditions in the community around the site. So, before anyone would be harvesting produce, we should have an update to that question. Illinois EPA will coordinate information with the Illinois Department of Public Health to respond to this question.

Will there be a public meeting soon, where I could ask questions and see the available sampling results?

Yes. Illinois EPA plans to hold a public availability session as soon as we have most of the data back from the investigation, hopefully within the month. Staff will be available to answer questions one-on-one to residents. We will coordinate this meeting with U.S. EPA, both Sangamon County Public Health and the Illinois Department of Public Health, and with local officials (as well as representatives from Formosa Plastics). Note: Data from any private property samples are releasable only to the property owners, under the state confidentiality laws.

What is happening on the site now?

Currently, the U. S. Chemical Safety Hazard Investigation Board has control of the site and is conducting an accident investigation. Consequently, on-site sampling for the environmental investigation won’t begin until the site is released by that Agency. OSHA is also on the scene evaluating potential dangers for site workers. Meanwhile, Illinois EPA has asked for a sampling plan from Formosa that will assess site conditions as well as conditions in the surrounding area.

CTEH is performing ongoing air sampling for asbestos and vinyl chloride. In addition, Formosa has set up site security and safety plans to protect site investigators and to preserve the scene of the incident that is under investigation. Parts of the site have been evaluated for asbestos-containing materials and plans are being made for proper removal and disposal of that material. Formosa is in the process of securing contractors trained and licensed to handle hazardous materials to do work on the site.

Information Repository – Illinois EPA has established a public repository for site-related information at the Illiopolis/Niantic Public Library District at Sixth and Mary Streets in Illiopolis. As Illinois EPA receives reports related to the investigation, monitoring and cleanup, we will make these items available in the repository (in the library reference section) where residents may view and copy them at their convenience. The library hours are Monday and Friday – 1:00 to 5:00 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday – 1:00 to 8:00 p.m., Wednesday – 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Saturday – 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Illinois EPA will forward updates to this web page too.

For more information, you may contact:

Carol Fuller,                                                            Joe Dombrowski

Community Relations Coordinator                            Project Manager

Illinois EPA Office of                                               Illinois EPA State Sites Unit

Community Relations 

217/558-2564                                                        217/524-8807 

carol.fuller@epa.state.il.us                                       joseph.dombrowski@epa.state.il.us                                          

 

Posted 5/5/04

 

FORMOSA PLASTICS ILLIOPOLIS PLANT NEWS UPDATE

April 29, 2004, 2:00 PM - The situation at the Formosa Plastics plant in Illiopolis remains stable and has moved from an emergency phase to one of assessment and investigation. 

The last of the emergency response units left the plant site on Monday. A variety of State and Federal agencies, including the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Board (CSB), among others, remain on site conducting ongoing monitoring and investigations into the cause of the explosion on Friday, April 23, 2004.

The cause of the explosion is under active and aggressive investigation by Formosa and a variety of Government Agencies but has not yet been determined.

Air and water monitoring at the site and surrounding communities is ongoing and remains in place as a precautionary measure.  

Formosa continues to work with Government Agencies to safely assess the damage to the plant. Structural engineers from the Company and OSHA have been conducting an assessment of the structural integrity of the damaged portion of the plant. Until that assessment is complete, the damaged portion of the plant remains off-limits. Assessment in other areas is underway by the Company and Government Agencies, 

Testing of emergency response personnel as a precautionary measure continues. There were no reports of chemical exposure and injuries among emergency response personnel. 

Formosa's Public Information Hotline - (217) 486-6500 - remains active during business hours to answer questions from the community and address property damage claims.

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