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Peoria Fire Department keeping an eye on BioUrja site. Interim chief tallying costs for reimbursement

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.

Peoria interim fire chief Shawn Sollberger said Tuesday the department is still making regular checks on the BioUrja ethanol plant, but the department’s around-the-clock presence on site is over.

Sollberger said the fire watch over the silos damaged in the May 11 grain bin explosion ended Sunday morning.

“We're still going down there daily, just basically going out and touching base with BioUrja and their management staff to see where they're at,” said Sollberger.

“We were there for 24 hours (each day) with at least three firefighters for two weeks. It was absolutely necessary to put a fire watch in place; BioUrja recommended it and we fulfilled that.”

Sollberger said he will submit a report on the department’s labor and equipment costs related to the incident to City Manager Patrick Urich by the end of the week. He said BioUrja is “fully aware” they will be expected to reimburse the city for the expense.

Sollberger said four silos have been demolished, while the largest silo where the blast originated still stands.

“It sheared off about two-thirds of that silo that is still sitting there. It's the one that has the corn byproduct just sitting there within that silo,” said Sollberger.

“OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) still needs to perform an extensive investigation with our fire investigative division. So they're going to slowly remove that corn product, which started yesterday, (and) continue with the investigative process with our investigator. It's just going to take some time to get that bin down.”

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Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.