Four workers were killed and four others injured in an April 23 explosion at Formosa Plastics Corp. USA's PVC plant in Illiopolis, Ill.
Of the four injured, two remained in critical but stable condition at a local hospital as of 9 a.m. April 30, according to Formosa spokesman Rob Thibault. A third injured worker was hospitalized in fair condition, while the fourth was treated and released.
Officials at Livingston, N.J.-based Formosa said the cause of the blast, which occurred just before 11 p.m., is under investigation. Thibault said early media reports that the blast was caused by a leak of PVC feedstock vinyl chloride monomer, and that 60-70 percent of the plant was destroyed, were incorrect.
The fire was extinguished by the afternoon of April 25, although resin stored in a warehouse continued to smolder until being extinguished the morning of April 26, Thibault said.
Those killed in the blast were Joseph Machalek, 50; Larry Graves, 47; Linda Hancock, 56; and Glenn Lyman, 49. All four employees had worked at the Illiopolis site for at least 10 years.
Formosa has declared force majeure on all specialty PVC resins produced at the Illiopolis plant. The site also is not accepting delivery of materials from vendors.
Thibault said some of the PVC paste resins produced in Illiopolis also can be made at the firm's plant in Delaware City, Del., but other specialty PVC resins only were made in Illiopolis. Resins made at the site are used in vinyl flooring, interior automotive parts, carpet backing and traffic cones.
``We're doing everything we can to help our customers with supply,'' Thibault said.
The incident resulted in the evacuation of 1,000 people from Illiopolis and the surrounding area. All residents were allowed to return to their homes April 25. Thibault said air-quality testing done by Formosa and by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency detected no dangerous chemical levels in the area around the plant.
Illiopolis is a small town about 25 miles east of Springfield, Ill., with a population of 950. The Formosa plant employs 136, making it the town's largest employer. At the time of the incident, 18 employees were at the site.
Formosa has set no timetable for restarting the plant. Thibault said it's possible that a second production line - which has been idle since Formosa bought the plant from Borden Chemicals and Plastics LP in April 2002 - could be restarted. The blast apparently took place in the first production unit, with the second escaping damage.
The plant's administration building also was undamaged in the explosion, allowing office workers to return to work April 26. Company officials said no estimate of the cost of the damage or repair work was available.
``Right now, we're assessing the damage and looking at the best way to get the plant back online as soon as possible,'' Thibault said.
The site was opened as an ammunition manufacturing plant during World War II and was converted to plastics-making in 1954.