Organic Chemical Fire in Illinois: Emergency Response and Cleanup

by William H. Busch, Manager; Fire Operations Section, Illinois EPA, Springfield, Ill.,
John Renkes, Manager; Emergency Response Unit, Illinois EPA, Springfield, Ill.,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1982, Vol. 52, Issue 9, Pg. 62-65

Document Type: Feature article


In April 1980 at Hillsboro, Illinois, a fire in an agricultural chemical warehouse generated a hazardous smoke plume, and some 250,000 gallons of water used in fighting the fire were highly contaminated. Eighteen chemicals of varying toxicity were involved in the fire. The article describes how the owner, Local officials, the state EPA and a cleanup consultant evacuated area residents and contained and treated spilled materials. The large volume of fire-fighting water used led to potential contamination of surface and ground waters. Whether or not to try to extinguish such a fire, but rather let it burn, is discussed. The chemicals were largely eliminated as an environmental threat by use of soda ash to raise soil pH, and sprinkling powdered activated carbon over the ground and the polluted water treatment pond to soak up chemicals.

Subject Headings: Chemical treatment | Groundwater pollution | Organic chemicals | Chemical properties | Fires | Emergency management | Water treatment | Agricultural wastes | Illinois | United States

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