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Local News

Grain bin explodes at BioUrja ethanol plant

Tim Shelley
Collapsing grain bins at the BioUrja Renewables ethanol distillation plant after an explosion rocked the facility late Wednesday. Damages are estimated at over $2 million.

Damages are estimated at over $2 million after a grain bin explosion Wednesday night at the BioUrja ethanol plant in Peoria.

Peoria firefighters responded to the plant at 1 Edmund St. around 9 p.m. Crews on scene found a grain silo collapsed, and several large grain bins on fire.

Firefighters were unable to enter to full extinguish the blaze. Firefighters monitored the situation from a distance due to structural issues and a high level of CO2 in the atmosphere.

"This is one of those scenarios that is a huge ordeal just because you have hazardous materials, as well as confined space," said Peoria Fire Department Battalion Chief Steve Rada.

The fire department's technical rescue and hazardous materials teams are on scene. Officials from OSHA are also present, Rada said.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency confirmed Thursday they were notified of the explosion and are gathering information about the incident.

Two people were taken to the hospital for non life-threatening injuries after the explosion.

A distinct odor was emanating from the plant when a reporter visited the site early Thursday morning.

The cause of the explosion is under investigation. Firefighters cleared the scene around 1 p.m. Thursday.

BioUrja called in specialists to remove the damaged silos and grain bins. Rada said a complete mitigation will take some time due to its complexity.

Officials say there is no danger to the public. Washington Street and the Cedar Street Bridge remained open to traffic Thursday.

ADM sold the ethanol plant to BioUrja Renewables last October. The industrial site was formerly the world's largest whiskey distillery under Hiram Walker. The plant closed in the 1980s and was converted to ethanol distillation.

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