Update 6:55 p.m., May 18 — The city’s Department of Buildings has ordered General Iron operations to shut down indefinitely, according to an email from Lincoln Park Alderman Michele Smith (43rd).
“The explosions damaged critical facilities of General Iron – including a new piece of equipment recently installed to comply with the federal EPA consent decree entered in 2018,” Smith said.
This morning’s explosion occurred in an area that heats scrap metal to a very high temperature to burn off volatile materials, according to the alderman.
“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 wrote. “A building to the north was also damaged.”
Chicago police and fire department units are on the scene of a reported “explosion” at General Iron, 1909 North Clifton, in Lincoln Park. No injuries have been reported.
People up to a mile away from the site reported hearing a loud boom around 9:10 a.m. Others reported seeing gray smoke rising from the site. The Office of Fire Investigation and relevant city departments are responding to the scene.
General Iron said there was an explosion in its metal shredding operation, but there was “no ensuing fire.”
“Shredding has ceased…We are investigating all possibilities, including potential sabotage [and are]fully cooperating with city officials,” the company said.
Local Alderman Brian Hopkins (2nd) said the incident was a “major explosion and fire” and said a “sudden increase in pollution readings” were detected in nearby residential areas.
“Permanent and immediate closure of this hazardous facility is no longer a discussion point, it must happen NOW, by executive order,” the alderman said.
A police sergeant at the plant said a door and funnel-shaped piece of metal housing apparently blew off of a tower structure.
“Witnesses reported a fireball and ‘mushroom cloud’ of smoke generated by the explosion,” Hopkins tweeted.
CFD declared a Level 1 HAZMAT response around 9:40 a.m. That is the lowest of four hazardous material levels recognized nationally.
Level 1 situations incidents “present little risk to the environment and/or to public health with containment and cleanup,” according to the National Fire Protection Association.
The HAZMAT declaration does not necessarily mean any hazardous materials are involved, but it did draw additional fire department resources to the site for precautionary testing of conditions.