I-Team: Propane facilities go largely unregulated

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The ABC7 I-Team has learned that propane facilities in Illinois are largely unregulated and not subject to regular inspection by authorities. (WLS)

ABC7 I-TEAM INVESTIGATION
The ABC7 I-Team has learned that propane facilities in Illinois are largely unregulated and not subject to regular inspection by authorities.

In Illinois, and many other states, propane gas lines, tanks and equipment are inspected only when they are installed, or after a complaint, and do not receive regular safety visits by fire authorities.

Illinois state law requires fire marshal personnel to be present when talks are installed or relocated and the Gurnee facility is among thousands across the U.S. that are also not under any federal regulation.

The explosions and towering fire could be seen and felt-for miles. On Thursday, the Illinois Fire Marshal said officials there are checking state records to see if they have ever been called to inspect the Pinnacle Propane Plant in Gurnee.

Under a recently updated state law, government safety inspectors are required to be on the scene of propane plants only when tanks are being put in or moved.

A statement from Texas-based Pinnacle said the company is "Cooperating with emergency personnel and regulatory agencies; Conducting a thorough investigation and working to determine cause, mitigate risk of any future incidents."

Propane trade associations and the industry are largely self-regulated and policed. One safety training video instructs company executives what to do in the event of a fire similar to the one that occurred Thursday.

Thursday's fire is believed to have stated in the rear of the facility where tanks are refilled. Officials said it was a small fire that just took off.

"With the storage that they had and the two large cylinders that they have in the back, if either of those would have BLEVE'd, we're talking those cylinders could have traveled a mile or a mile and a half," Gurnee Fire Chief Fred Griedl, said.

With millions of residential and business propane users, industry figures show the occurrence of fires and blasts is small and so are injuries and deaths. But when an explosion such as Thursday's occurs, questions are raised about why the industry is mostly unregulated and whether there should be regular inspections.
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