Formosa Plastics Corp. USA is removing PVC feedstocks from its damaged resin plant in Illiopolis, Ill.
Livingston, N.J.-based Formosa is transporting 20-25 rail cars of vinyl chloride monomer and vinyl acetate monomer to make cleanup easier at the plant, which was damaged in an April 23 explosion and fire that resulted in the deaths of five employees. The feedstock removal will be completed by mid-July.
Formosa spokesman Rob Thibault said that feedstock storage tanks in Illiopolis were not damaged by the blast. In addition to making cleanup easier, the move is being made so that the feedstocks can be used at other Formosa sites. Some excess material also could be sold on the open market, he said.
Before the move, Formosa completed an evaluation of the site's fire protection, air monitoring and leak detection systems, Thibault said via phone July 2.
Investigators with Formosa and federal and state environmental agencies recently were able to access parts of the plant that had been closed since the explosion. No findings have been released and the cause of the blast remains unknown.
Reports of sickness among two dozen cattle at two farms located less than three miles from the Illiopolis plant have appeared in local newspapers. Thibault said one recent report indicated that at least one head of cattle had been sick before the explosion. Tissue sample testing done on the cattle has not been completed, he added.
He added that Formosa did air-quality testing after the incident that included the area near the farms, and that post-accident state water testing extended that far as well. Results from those tests came back within Environmental Protection Agency regulations, according to Thibault. Formosa is awaiting the results of soil testing done in the area.
VCM exposure tests given to more than 300 employees and area residents - as well as to firefighters and paramedics who responded to the explosion - also showed no dangerous levels, Thibault said. Formosa supplied the testing at no cost.
No date has been set for a potential restart at the Illiopolis plant, which Formosa acquired from Borden Chemicals and Plastics LP in 2002. Thibault said that plans to restart an idle line at the plant have been scrapped because of the length of time the line has been down and because of changes that would be needed for the line to make specialty PVC grades. Previously, the line had produced general-purpose PVC.
Formosa now is considering installing a new resin line in Illiopolis, but Thibault said any such work would have to wait until the accident investigation is further along.
The accident led Formosa to cut almost 60 jobs at the site in late May. Officials said they are unsure if those jobs will be restored when the plant reopens. The cuts leave the plant with a staff of 75.
According to some industry estimates, the Illiopolis plant supplied as much as half of the flooring-grade PVC made in North America. Flooring maker Armstrong Holdings Inc. has warned its shareholders that the firm's financial results may be affected by the Illiopolis explosion and shutdown.