A Joint Service of Bradley University and Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Interim chief: BioUrja incident cost Peoria Fire Department ‘just over’ $100K

Tim Shelley
Damaged silos could be seen from MacArthur Highway on the morning of Friday, May 13, 2022. A grain bin explosion rocked the BioUrja ethanol plant the night before, leaving two injured and millions of dollars in damages.

The Peoria Fire Department tallied a six-figure expense in responding to the grain bin explosion at the BioUrja ethanol plant last month.

Interim fire chief Shawn Sollberger told WCBU that the total cost for equipment use and labor, including overtime, came in at “just over $100,000.”

“We did some air monitoring with our hazmat equipment, so there's costs that are associated with that,” said Sollberger. “We had our mobile command unit down there from basically right from the go to the very end; there's costs that are associated with that. We had equipment failure, equipment loss –and anytime you're dealing with an event of that magnitude, you're going to have that.”

Sollberger said he submitted that billing report to the city’s legal department so it can initiate a discussion with the company about reimbursement.

“We'll certainly have a conversation with the company to talk to them about our costs that we incurred,” City Manager Patrick Urich told WCBU. “It was certainly unplanned and unexpected (and) obviously we wanted to make sure that it was handled in a safe manner. But we will certainly have a conversation with them about cost recovery for the city and for the taxpayers.”

Sollberger said he doesn’t anticipate any resistance from BioUrja over paying the bill.

“I think that they've been extremely good to deal with through this whole process,” said Sollberger. “I don't feel like that that would be any different with this particular facet as well.”

Sollberger said while the department is no longer conducting any on-site monitoring at BioUrja, he continues to work with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on finalizing incident reports.

“There's a fair amount of work that still needs to be done from an investigative standpoint,” he said. “So we're working on that now, to be able to sit down and talk with insurance companies and legal departments in many different areas. This is some of the grunt work that has to be performed when you have incidents like these.”

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency said it has collected samples from the site to determine if the explosion and subsequent firefighting had any effects on the surrounding area, including possible impacts to the Illinois River. The agency said it is still awaiting lab results on those samples.

We depend on your support to keep telling stories like this one. You – together with NPR donors across the country – create a more informed public. Fact by fact, story by story. Please take a moment to donate now and fund the local news our community needs. Your support truly makes a difference.

Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.