MORRIS — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has completed a cleanup of the Morris lithium battery fire site.
On June 29, 2021, multiple first responders were called in to respond to a fire at an old paper mill east of Morris. Upon arrival, a respondent was told that the owner, Superior, his battery had used a warehouse to store lithium batteries.
Over 200,000 pounds of lithium batteries were stored in the warehouse. More than 3,000 residents, who lived within a half-mile radius of the scene, were evacuated as firefighters watched the blaze. Some were forced to stay in shelters.
“The biggest danger we are dealing with right now is the smoke or smoke from this fire,” Morris Fire Chief Tracy Steffs said at a press conference after the fire broke out. “The gas is highly toxic. It is very deadly.”
The fire was officially considered extinguished on July 11, due to the use of Portland cement to extinguish the fire.
In September 2021, it was announced that Superior Battery had agreed to pay for the cleanup, but the EPA said that Superior Battery would perform several work requirements of its legal contracts in a timely or adequate manner. I decided not.
The EPA has announced that it will take over the cleanup in December as per the terms of its contract with Superior Battery.
The EPA said in an April news release that the removal of hazardous and potentially hazardous materials would be part of the Superfund’s separate funding set aside to address pressing threats to human health and the environment. It said it would be dealt with under the Emergency Removal Program.
On Thursday, the EPA announced that all batteries had been removed from the site and the cleanup process was complete. EPA will continue to remain on-site, continue to monitor, and remove non-hazardous materials from the lot.
“We’re still in the process of clearing some of the debris off the floor. Battery cleanup, we call it a time-critical removal action, but it’s done and USEPA is done .
According to Zintak, multiple subcontractors are used to dispose of different types of batteries, with Heritage Environmental being the primary disposal subcontractor. Batteries were shipped across North America, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Mexico, and Canada.
USEPA has removed approximately 388,517 pounds of batteries from warehouses, including 123,725 pounds of lithium ion, 52,274 pounds of lithium metal, and 24,932 pounds of alkaline batteries. This does not include all e-waste, debris, ash, PPE, and combustible liquids removed from the site.
Jintak said the total decontamination cost was about $3.5 million, all funded by Superfund’s emergency removal program. Spokesman Stan Knudson said there will be no additional tax burden on residents for the decontamination.
“The Superfund is what the federal government budgets for each year. It doesn’t cost much,” Knudson said.
The city received a $25,000 federal disaster compensation grant. This is what the city recorded as overtime.
“During the fire, public works and the police spent approximately $30,000 in overtime. So $25,000 is about 87% recovery of those funds, which is the maximum amount allowed under disaster compensation grants. was,” said Knudson.
“There is no threat to the surrounding area,” Jintak said, and there are currently no concerns about air, water and soil quality.
The future of the building remains unknown until a pending lawsuit between the City of Morris and Superior Battery is resolved.
“We obviously still have a lot of work to do with the fire department. They are still in charge of the building until things settle down. That said, despite some preliminary results we’ve seen so far…so it’s nice to tear it down and decide what can be done after that,” said Morris Mayor Chris Brown. said.