Shelter in place lifted after La Salle chemical plant fire; residents warned to avoid green residue

BySarah Schulte, Liz Nagy, and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Thursday, January 12, 2023
Residents warned about green residue from La Salle chemical plant
Green residue from chemical plant fire appears to eat through resident's patio furniture in a matter of hours

LA SALLE, Ill. (WLS) -- The shelter in place has been lifted after a massive fire erupted at the Carus Chemical plant in La Salle Wednesday morning.

La Salle Fire Chief Jerry Janick said they responded to a fire at about 9 a.m. at the plant 1500 8th Street.

"I stand there shocked for a second then I go to wake up my roommate and say, 'You need to go up right because Carus on fire,'" said Veronica Borzumato. "It's nothing I'd ever seen before."

What nearby residents saw was a humongous cloud of smoke.

At a press conference shortly after noon, Chief Janick said the fire appears to be contained. No injuries have been reported and all workers at the plant have been accounted for, Janick said.

Video from the scene showed smoke pouring out of the plant. La Salle about 94 miles southwest of Chicago.

Authorities give afternoon update on La Salle chemical plant fire

Fire officials say the blaze has been contained but are warning residents of a green residue as they ask people to shelter in place.

Almost immediately, people who live nearby said some sort of substance started raining down on their homes, yards, decks and cars.

"When I hit the windshield wipers, it looked black to me, then it turned green and now it's like a brown color. And it's caustic. I know what it is, they know what it is," said resident Jamie Hicks.

"When I hit the windshield wipers, it looked black to me, then it turned green and now it's like a brown color. And it's caustic," said Jamie Hicks.

Chris Lesniek was taking his black Lab out for a walk when he heard the explosion.

"I looked up I thought it was at the end of the world, there was a green mushroom cloud that went 600 feet onto the air and just kept expanding -- looked like poison gas," he said. "Instead of grabbing camera I threw my dog in the truck and headed to the opposite direction."

Janick said the fire caused significant damage to the building. A shelter-in-place was in ordered for several hours as a precaution but has since been lifted.

"We are still bringing additional equipment in to assist in the final extinguishment and investigation," Janick said.

Chopper 7HD flies above chemical fire

Chopper 7HD flies above a massive fire at a La Salle chemical plant Wednesday morning.

Officials are also warning residents to avoid green residue that has been seen in the area. The La Salle Police Department said an oxidizer, which appears green in color, has been released. Police said do not touch the substance and that it can be deactivated.

"In order to deactivate it, you will need a 1:1:1 mixture of: 1 gallon of water, 1 gallon of peroxide, 1 gallon of vinegar," police said.

However, a viewer shared pictures of what she said the substance did to her yard furniture. It appears to show it rusted out with a hole eaten through the furniture -- which she said has been since the fire.

A viewer shared pictures of what she says the green residue substance from the La Salle chemical plant fire did to her yard furniture.

"This guy had just gotten off of 80, it was a commercial industrial truck and he's got all stuff on hood of truck and he's wiping off with finger," said resident Clarence Smith. "Now you know you're not supposed to touch it."

"Some of the material that was released during the incident is used to as a drinking water material," said Carus Vice President Allen Gibbs. "If you come in contact with that material, it can cause staining on the skin. The stain does not pose a health threat.

"For them to say they would let their dog in their backyard and eat some of that grass that that stuff just fell on, I find that really really appalling," Hicks said.

Many said they've never worried about living so close to a chemical plant but, Wednesday's incident may change that.

"I was initially worried because I didn't know what was in the air right now. We kept the windows close," Borzumato said.

"It's been there forever, they've been very good for the community there has never been a problem that I know of," Lesnick added.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Chief Janick said there were reports of explosions, but that has not been confirmed.

The company's website says, "Our quality products help customers solve environmental challenges around the world. We provide innovative solutions for municipal water, wastewater, industrial applications, air purification, and soil remediation."

Massive fire erupts at LaSalle chemical plant

A massive fire broke out at a chemical plant in LaSalle, Illinois Wednesday morning.

"Our fire departments have done a great job of bringing this down," Deputy City Clerk Brent Bader said, "Obviously when they arrived on scene it was quite a worse situation. But right now, we are just concerned with making sure everything is maintained and all of our first responders are going to be in there as well."

The Illinois EPA said they are monitoring the situation and they will be responding to the site.

Officials are expected to give another update Thursday afternoon.

Residents can call Carus Chemical at 815-224-6622.