MADISON, Ill. – The massive fire at a metal recycling warehouse in Madison, Illinois has now been referred to Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul for potential enforcement action.
The fire is still smoldering one week after it started. Firefighters have been making about three return trips every 24 hours.
“We dump 3,000 gallons of water on it at a time,” Madison Fire Chief David Klee said. “We do what we can with it. We just can’t get to the seat of the fire yet.”
A cleanup company hired by the business owner, Interco, must begin its work and expose the lowest levels of the debris before there can be a final extinguishment, the chief said.
There’s still no word on the cause of the fire, but residents and first responders really want to know what’s in the smoke. Residents wonder what they’ve been breathing.
Leonard Latham was using a blower to try to blast every trace of it from his fiancée’s air conditioner.
“She says she still smells it. They still haven’t said what’s going on. What was in those chemicals? You know, it was some toxic stuff,” Latham said. “They’re not saying what level it was or anything and people have respiratory conditions around here.”
His fiancée has asthma. So does Wesley Ware’s wife across the street.
“I still don’t know what we were breathing over there. That’s the thing. What have we got, that came inside, that we breathed into our bodies?” Ware said.
On multiple houses near the scene, you see the same pattern of discoloration on the siding. It almost looks like chicken pox: dark, circular spots on the sides of the houses; generally facing the same direction.
Mist from water used to fight the fire may have captured particles from the smoke and been blown onto the houses, Klee said.
The EPA conducted air sampling around the site and reported that nonferrous metals, complex alloys, metallic powder, lithium-ion batteries, and scrap computer parts were among the things burning in the warehouse.
Residents and the close to 200 first responders who’ve worked the scene need to know what those air samples show, Klee said.
The Illinois EPA informed him Wednesday that test results were coming soon.
“Any day. t’s been going on a week now so it’s time,” Klee said. “We’ll have answers. We’ll give them a plan once we find out, if they were exposed, what they were exposed to, not only health-wise but (for) property cleanup.”
The EPA issued the following statement to FOX 2 on Wednesday:
EPA stopped all air monitoring and sampling and left the site on Friday, August 12. EPA air samples taken during the response were sent to a lab, EPA anticipates results in the next two weeks. For more information about EPA’s response last week, please visit our website: https://response.epa.gov/IntercoWarehouseFire.
If residents have any health-related concerns, they can reach out to the Madison County Health Department or the Illinois Department of Public Health at 217-782-5830 or email: DPH.Tox@illinois.gov.
The Madison County Emergency Management Agency also posted a FAQ to their Facebook page for residents regarding potential smoke inhalation, how to clean indoor and outdoor surfaces, and more.
AG Raoul has yet to comment about any enforcement action against Interco.