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Bloomington-Normal Water Reclamation District pushes forward following explosion
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Bloomington-Normal Water Reclamation District pushes forward following explosion

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041720-blm-loc-10plantfire

Units from area departments stage on Thursday, April 16, 2020, as firefighters fight a fire on the roof of a processing building between two methane tanks at the Bloomington Normal Water Reclamation District's Randolph Township sewage treatment plant.

BLOOMINGTON — Operations at the Bloomington-Normal Water Reclamation District are "OK" and moving forward after an explosion Thursday morning damaged a building and left an employee with minor injuries.

An apparent gas leak inside the control and boiler room caused the explosion shortly after 8 a.m., said Randolph Township Fire District Fire Chief Randy Richards. A damage estimate hasn't been determined.

“The building that manages our sludge and our gas production is out of commission,” district Executive Director Randy Stein said Friday. “We are managing things a little differently and we are meeting (Friday) about how we are going to handle this on Monday. We have some people we are going to talk with about transporting some of our sludge to the west plant for what is called stabilization. We are OK.”

The plant, 16041 E. 700 North Road, continued to operate during and after the fire, he said, and the fire damage will not affect water treatment services or the digester conversion of sludge into biosolids, which are often sold for fertilizer and other purposes. The plant serves parts of Bloomington, the village of Downs and the nearby Crestwicke subdivision.

The district also has a plant at 2015 W. Oakland Ave. Overall, the district treats about 30 million gallons of wastewater per day, transforming raw sewage and industrial waste into clean water and byproducts that benefit farms and agriculture production.

The gas leak was inside the control and boiler room, between two digesters, which tripped monitors at 25% below the explosive limit. An employee planned to check the monitors and take an air sample, but the building exploded as the employee opened the door, destroying much of the room and some wiring. The fire spread through the room and into the roof.

The employee was treated at a local hospital and later released. Two other employees escaped injury.

Nearly a dozen fire trucks and two ambulances were at the scene, including Randolph Township Fire Protection District, Bloomington Township Fire Protection District, Downs Community Fire Protection District, Wapella Fire Department, and Dale Township Fire Department. The Mount Hope-Funks Grove Fire Protection District in McLean and LeRoy Fire Department stood by to cover the other departments. The Bloomington Fire Department Hazmat Team was initially called, but their services were not needed.

Contact Kevin Barlow at (309) 820-3238. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_barlow

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