The explosion happened shortly after 9 a.m. at General Iron Industries, 1909 N. Clifton Ave., according to a statement from company spokesman Randall Samborn.
No one was injured and there was no fire after the initial explosion "within the metal shredding process," he said.
"Shredding operations have ceased for the present time," Samborn said. "We are thoroughly investigating all possible causes, including potential sabotage. We are fully cooperating with city officials."
The Chicago Fire Department issued a statement saying, "Earlier today, the Chicago Fire Department responded to the General Iron Industries site in Lincoln Park after an explosion occurred on its conveyor system. There are no injuries reported as a result of the incident. Upon arrival, the Fire Department immediately tested the air quality, and there is no apparent immediate health risk to residents and the surrounding community. The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) is on-site to conduct further testing and evaluation, and the Fire Department is investigating the incident. Should any environmental violation be determined, the City will issue citations immediately. Work at the site has stopped as a result of the incident and will not resume until the City has determined the cause of the explosion. The health and safety of Chicago's residents remain a top priority, and we will continue to provide more information as details are gathered."
Neighbors like Lara Compton, who lives two blocks away, said they were rattled.
"It felt like a bomb had gone off," Compton said.
After the expolosion, there was a huge cloud of smoke and dust, which believes believes was filled with tiny particles.
She and other neighbors are part of a group called "Clean the North Branch" that has been trying to shut down the General Iron facility for several years.
Hopkins said witnesses reported a "fireball" and "mushroom cloud" of smoke at the controversial Lincoln Park facility.
"Sudden increase in pollution readings detected in surrounding residential neighborhood," Hopkins said on Twitter.
Last September, General Iron Industries agreed to vacate the site and move to the Southeast Side by the end of 2020. Hopkins has called for the closure of the facility before, citing pollution it sends into the neighborhood.
Hopkins called on Mayor Lori Lightfoot to immediately shut down the plant.
"Permanent and immediate closure of this hazardous facility is no longer a discussion point, it must happen NOW, by executive order," Hopkins said.
On Monday night, the Department of Buildings ordered the shut down of General Iron indefinitely, according to a statement from Alderman Michelle Smith (43rd).
"According to the briefing I just received from the Mayor's Office, Fire Commissioner Ford, Buildings Commissioner Frydland, and CDPH Commissioner Arwady, 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. A building to the north was also damaged," Smith said.
"The Fire Departments hazmat unit conducted an initial test for VOCs and other pollutants which showed normal readings. However, there will be further tests," Smith said. "We were not informed of any particulate matter testing, but the investigation continues."
WLS-TV contributed to this report
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire - Copyright Chicago Sun-Times 2020.)