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IL EPA Seeks Order at Paint Blast Site

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

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A Chicago-area paint factory that was the scene of two explosions and a fire earlier this month will not reopen until state authorities know what caused the accident and how the cause is being addressed, officials say.

The company also has some cleanup work ahead of it, authorities say.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is preparing an interim injunction order that would prevent Fox Valley Systems Inc. of Cary, IL, from reopening until the company satisfies several conditions, assistant counsel John Waligore said in an interview Monday (March 18).

The coatings plant was rocked March 6 by two explosions nearly 90 minutes apart and a blaze that left three people injured. The company manufactures traffic, athletic, and marking paint and striping equipment.

Fox Valley Systems blast
Stephanie Price

The blasts blew out walls on both sides of the plant, authorities said. Owners are still deciding whether to rebuild. The cause of the accident is not yet known.

The second blast was captured on amateur video.

Cause under Investigation

The cause of the explosions is still unknown, which is one of Illinois EPA's concerns. The agency is one of several involved in the investigation, which also includes state and local fire authorities and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The coating company, which has made no comment on the accident, has been cooperating with the Illinois EPA, Waligore said.

"Our concern is that we need to know what caused the explosion and fire, ... so that they can prevent whatever happened here from happening again," he said.

Fox Valley Systems video

Amateur video captured the second of two explosions that rocked coating maker Fox Valley Systems this month. The blasts and fire injured three people.

He added, "Our goal isn't to close this company but, before they do restart, to address whatever risks were made evident by this accident."

3 Conditions

The company has spoken with Illinois EPA about the likely terms of an impending order, Waligore said. The order  is expected to require Fox Valley Systems to:

  • Conduct a root cause analysis of the accident;
  • Determine any runoff contamination and clean that up; and
  • Develop a plan to remove flammable chemicals and propellants that remain in the facility.

Water samples in a nearby retention pond show "fairly high levels of acetone and toluene" from the runoff of water used to fight the fire, and "a lot" of chemicals and propellants remain in the factory, Waligore said.

The retention pond is not on the coating factory's site but belongs to the industrial park where the plant is located, he said. The pond has wells in the bottom, and environmental authorities are concerned about groundwater contamination.

Fox Valley Systems Fox Valley Systems Fox Valley Systems
Fox Valley Systems

Coating maker Fox Valley Systems, founded in 1970, calls itself "the original marking and striping company" and the inventor of the first aerosol spray can that works upside-down.

Soil contamination is a lesser concern, and all storm sewers have been flushed out, Waligore said.

To Rebuild or Not?

The fire seriously damaged the company's production line, and officials are still determining whether they can rebuild and reopen, Waligore said.

Founded in 1970, the company has had a few problems with OSHA in recent years. In 2004 and 2009, the company paid fines for two serious violations each time. Both investigations were triggered by complaints.



Tagged categories: Accidents; Acetone; Aerosol coatings; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); hazardous materials; Health and safety; Striping; Traffic paint

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