Pekin plant shut down after gas explosion

By Denise Jackson

March 20, 2013 Updated Mar 21, 2013 at 12:33 PM CDT

PEKIN, Ill. -- Demolition crews spent much of Wednesday morning demolishing the corner section of the Enviro-Safe Refrigerants plant in Pekin where a gas explosion erupted Tuesday afternoon injuring four workers.

Pekin fire officials said sifting through the rubble to find the origin of the gas leak might be a challenge.

"It's gonna be difficult just because of the amount of damage and the instability of some of the areas. We still have some areas that we don't want anybody to go into, we're afraid they can still come down," said Pekin Fire Chief Kurt Nelson.

Enviro-Safe Owner Randy Price said contractors were working inside the building when a gas valve was hit releasing chemicals. In 17 years of operation, he said this is the first industrial accident at the site.

In 2006, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found two serious violations during an inspection; processing of highly hazardous chemicals and electrical equipment being used that had not been approved for that location.

Price said, if necessary, he will rebuild.

"I think that the bottling plant we need to get back up and running. We got a lot of bottling to do and we're gonna try and either put up another building fast and see if we can get right back online," Price said.

It could be months before the company resumes operations. Price said, given the magnitude of the damages, he will have to find another location. His focus now is trying to salvage some of the equipment.

As for the four injured workers, Price would not release their names but he said he had gotten text messages from family members who said they are making progress.

OSHA spokesman Tom Bielema said their investigation into the gas explosion could take months.