Updated at 7:30 p.m.
Neighbors of LyondellBasell's Morris facility are beginning to return to their homes, despite a small explosion reported there around 7 p.m. Sunday, hours after authorities evacuated a 1.8-mile radius around the chemical plant following a power outage.
Grundy County Emergency Management Director Jim Lutz said there was a small explosion at the plant in unincorporated Grundy County and fire personnel have been dispatched to the facility. Neither the cause of the explosion nor whether anyone was injured is known at this time.
The plant, at 8805 North Tabler Road, had lost power early Sunday afternoon.
"The plant lost electrical power and due to losing electrical power, they lost some ability to cool some product in the plant," Morris Fire Protection District Deputy Chief Tracey Steffes said.
The area surrounding the plant was evacuated due to concerns about chemical pressure.
“They need to be at 0.5 pounds of pressure," Grundy County Emergency Management Director Jim Lutz said. "The latest reading is 0.94."
When the reading earlier reached 0.97 pounds of pressure, residents were evacuated as a precautionary measure to , at 7901 E. Minooka Road in Minooka, according to a news release.
"If there was a catastrophic failure, it would effect up to 1.8 miles," Lutz said.
In addition to evacuating residents, neighboring Aux Sable Liquid Products, which is in the village of Channahon, was evacuated as were all the plants within that 1.8-mile radius. (See the area that was evacuated on the map PDF attached to this article.)
Evacuation of residents was accomplished through a combination of reverse 911 calls and home visits.
"We did reverse 911 calls and then went door-to-door at the single rural residences," Grundy County Sheriff Terry Marketti said.
He estimated about 125 residents were evacuated.
Authorities also established a command post at Route 6 and Ridge Road in Minooka.
That command post began on-site at Lyondell, but was moved back to the Route 6 and Ridge Road location for safety reasons, Lutz said.
No one was injured in the incident, which began when a small fire erupted at the plant.
"The plant fire brigade extinguished that," Steffes said.
Dark steam could be seen trailing across the sky Sunday afternoon, but that was not the result of fire.
"They're diverting a lot of flammable through the steam stack," Lutz said.
Normally, steam is injected to dilute the product so the smoke is not black, but that was not possible in Sunday's incident because of the power outage.
"It's a really good way to destroy the product safely," Lutz said.
The facility has about 400 employees and uses natural gas to produce ethylene, which then is made into polyethylene plastic resins, according to the company’s website. The facility covers almost 900 acres, according to the website.
Check back with Channahon-Minooka Patch for updates on this developing story.