Explosion forces closure of General Iron Industries in Chicago

Chicago News

CHICAGO —    An explosion has forced the closure of General Iron Industries in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.

Firefighters responded to the yard in the 1900 block of North Clifton Avenue just after 9 a.m. Monday.

Our house shook for a good three seconds or so,” Dan Grigorescu said. “I actually stepped outside afterward to see if there was any structural damage.”

No injuries were reported in the explosion.

Late Monday, Ald. Michele Smith of the 43rd Ward sent out a letter to residents that said the initial explosion occurred in the newly installed RTO (Regenerative Thermal Oxidizer).

“The heat was so intense that it flowed back to the initial point of entry, triggering the safety ‘blow-out doors’ of the filter building and damaging it significantly,” Smith said. “A building to the north was also damaged.”

Residents near the Lincoln Park facility said the problems there are nothing new.

Lara Compton is part of the nonprofit group Clean the North Branch that has been fighting to get the plant shut down for years because of health hazards.

We are dealing with pollution on a regular basis from General Iron,” she said. “People’s houses are covered in fiberglass fluff, the playgrounds are covered in fiberglass fluff, there’s stuff all over our neighborhood from that facility.”

“The incident this morning at General Iron is just another example of why Chicago deserves a commitment to the North Branch Park & Preserve   – the Chicago River belongs to all of us, not just private interests.  It is beyond time for this old, decaying facility to go, and to be replaced with a public park for all Chicagoans to enjoy the outdoors. In these times of pandemic, the need for public open space has been demonstrated more strongly than ever,” Smith said in the letter to residents.

“Permanent and immediate closure of this hazardous facility is no longer a discussion point, it must happen NOW, by executive order,” said Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd Ward) on Twitter.

Records obtained by WGN show a city inspector visited the General Iron facility three times in March. Each time the business was cited.

Most recently, on March 19, an inspector noted nearby the facility a “pungent odor of sweet burning metal” that “burns my nostrils” and makes breathing uncomfortable.

The hearing date on those alleged violations is July 9.

The Chicago Fire Department said in a statement that work at the site has stopped and will not resume until the cause of the explosion is determined. They said they are cooperating with city officials.

A statement on the General Iron website acknowledges the incident, and said the company is investigating all possible causes, including sabotage.

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