The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday said it has referred an enforcement action to the Illinois Attorney General’s Office against Superior Battery Inc., the site of a lithium battery fire in Morris, which the EPA alleged violated the Illinois Environmental Protection Act and Illinois Pollution Control Board Regulations.
The Illinois EPA alleges Superior Battery Inc., 919 E. Benton St., "has caused, threatened, or allowed the discharging of contaminants to the air and water, and disposed or abandoned waste at an unregulated facility."
"Additional violations may be added" as more information is gathered about the company's management of the batteries, the Illinois EPA said.
The referral, which asks the attorney general to pursue legal action, said the fire produced "smoke containing potentially dangerous substances" and forced the evacuation of about 1,000 homes.
The referral also requests that the attorney general require Superior Battery Inc. to obtain a consultant to determine the cause of the fire, contain any runoff and prevent off-site discharge of water, and provide a detailed inventory of site materials, among other items.
Nearly 100 tons of lithium batteries were involved in the large industrial fire in Morris Tuesday that led to emergency evacuations and a large-scale response as authorities warned of “highly poisonous” and “very deadly” fumes.
Firefighters said the fire was still smoldering as of Wednesday but progress had been made and officials are looking to execute new strategies to put out the blaze.
According to Morris Fire Chief Tracey Steffas, the fire grew in intensity overnight Tuesday into Wednesday, but crews were on scene throughout.
"Companies on scene monitored and made sure the fire didn’t jump off property and affect any exposures in residential areas," Steffas said.
Unable to use their regular fire hoses, firefighters used unique techniques to put out the blaze. Firefighters will continue to use so-called “high flow water” to help cool off the batteries, and then plan to smother it with cement.
“We’re going to cover it with cement and smother that fire,” Steffas said. “Once we put cement down, we hope that’s going to smother it.”
The use of the high flow water led to questions about water runoff, but the Illinois EPA said it put monitors into use around Morris to ensure that water supplies remain safe and that runoff doesn’t make its way into the nearby Illinois River.
Similar devices were recently used around a chemical plant fire that erupted in Rockton earlier this month and led to several days of evacuations around the site of the blaze.
Meanwhile, residents were able to go back home and get things from their houses, but evacuation orders remain in place.
Morris Mayor Chris Brown said officials were unaware that the building contained the highly-flammable lithium ion batteries and said that a disaster proclamation was issued on Wednesday to free up funds to address issues surrounding the fire.