As a result of two explosions this morning,
the City of Chicago Department of Buildings has ordered the shut down of General Iron indefinitely. An investigation is underway by the Fire Department and Chicago Department of Public Health, and likely the federal or state Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), the Illinois Department of the Environment and others.
The explosions damaged critical facilities of General Iron – including a new piece of equipment
to comply with the federal EPA consent decree entered in 2018. Fortunately, no one was injured.
According to the briefing I just received from the Mayor’s Office, Fire Commissioner Ford, Buildings Commissioner Frydland, and CDPH Commissioner Arwady, the initial explosion occurred in the newly installed RTO (Regenerative Thermal Oxidizer). The heat was so intense that it flowed back to the initial point of entry, triggering the safety “blow-out doors” of the filter building and damaging it significantly. A building to the north was also damaged.
According to the Fire Commissioner, ferrous metal from various sources are taken from the “claw dump” to the shredder, which then go to a filter building, which removes some contaminants from the air, and then to the newly installed RTO, which is supposed to burn off the VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) and convert them into steam. The RTO heats the materials to about 14,000 degrees.
In addition to the Fire Department, the Chicago Department of Health and Department of Buildings responded to the scene. The Fire Departments hazmat unit conducted an initial test for VOCs and other pollutants which showed normal readings. However, there will be further tests. We were not informed of any particulate matter testing, but the investigation continues.
As a result of this industrial accident, the Commissioner of Buildings has issued a Commissioner Closure of all the operations of General Iron, including all shredding operations and acceptance of materials for shredding. The order cannot be lifted until
until a remediation and repair plan is approved and permits issued and work completed.
The incident this morning at General Iron is just another example of why Chicago deserves a commitment to the
North Branch Park & Preserve
- the Chicago River belongs to all of us, not just private interests. It is beyond time for this old, decaying facility to go, and to be replaced with
a public park
for all Chicagoans to enjoy the outdoors. In these times of pandemic, the need for public open space has been demonstrated more strongly than ever.