Skip to main content

Fact Sheet 1

Formosa Plastics Corporation Site

Fact Sheet 1

May 2004

Illiopolis, Illinois


On Friday night, April 23, 2004, an explosion occurred at the Formosa Plastics Corporation plant in Illiopolis, located between Springfield and Decatur along I-72. Illinois EPA’s Emergency Response Unit staff were on site before midnight and began monitoring the air around the plant and in the community. During the weekend and the next week, other Illinois EPA staff worked with the Village of Illiopolis’ public water supply operator to test and insure the safety of the drinking water supply. Additional sampling was done along an unnamed creek just south of the site property, which continues east to the Long Point Slough and the Sangamon River. Since then, Illinois EPA has determined that a long-term presence at the site is needed in the form of oversight regarding site investigation and proper cleanup of contamination.

In an effort to keep the public abreast of ongoing Illinois EPA activities, the Agency wants to respond to the concerns and questions posed by the public to date:

Is the public drinking water safe?

Yes. Illinois EPA staff collected water samples for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and bacteria from five locations within the Illiopolis community water supply, the water supply at Illiopolis/Formosa Plastics, and the Mt. Auburn and Mechanicsburg-Buffalo community water supply wells. The results of these samples were all negative for contamination. In addition, Illinois EPA staff have made an inspection of the structural integrity of the interconnected Illiopolis/ Formosa Plastics water supplies. At this time, the Illinois EPA is confident that the system’s integrity was not compromised by the explosion or subsequent fire. Illiopolis will continue to monitor VOCs at the public water supply plant on a monthly basis. The duration of this increased monitoring will be dependent on the outcome of remediation efforts and contaminants present.

Was the stream or river contaminated by surface water running off of the site during the fire fighting?

Illinois EPA staff performed water sampling at the plant discharge location, upstream, and at six stream locations downstream from the Formosa plant. The samples were collected in an unnamed stream flowing southeast from the plant, in Long Point Slough, and in the Sangamon River. Following the explosion, a volume of fire fighting runoff water was released. Early Saturday, an earthen dike was constructed and, in combination with portable pumping equipment, plant runoff from the affected area was retained on-site.

The wastewater treatment plant was without power for about 20 hours following the explosion, but full treatment resumed on Saturday evening. Sample results to date have shown low concentrations of site related contaminants in the plant discharge, but no levels exceeding state criteria for aquatic life or human health protection have been found in downstream waters.

Additionally, IEPA staff, along with Illinois Department of Natural Resources biologists, made repeated observations of the stream macroinvertebrates (small bugs), fish, any odors or visible sheen both upstream and downstream from the site. To date, no apparent adverse effects were observed in the stream organisms. One more round of inspection and sampling is planned for the stream and river the week of May 10, and Illinois EPA will update the public about the findings. We will determine whether further sampling is needed based on the results.

Is the plant owner taking responsibility for any of the sampling or investigation?

Yes. The plant owners have cooperated with emergency response staff. Formosa has hired an environmental firm, Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health (CTEH), to perform a variety of environmental monitoring in and around the site and will continue to do so for an indefinite period.

Illinois EPA sent a letter to the plant owners on May 4, 2004, requesting a meeting in the next two weeks to discuss investigation and cleanup, protection of the drinking water supplies, results from air and water monitoring and future use and permitting issues.

Should I be worried that contamination from the explosion settled on my property or in my home?

Although air monitoring at the time of the fire found some elevated levels of vinyl chloride and hydrochloric acid directly in the plume at the facility fence line, nothing was found in the community near homes. Illinois EPA is in the process of collecting soil, sediment, and surface water samples to evaluate for the potential for residential contamination from the explosion and fire. Results of these efforts will help determine if any additional samples may be needed off-site from the Formsa property.

Debris from the explosion (mainly in the form of building materials and metal piping jacketing) traveled in all directions, and has been found to date as far as three miles away. Illinois EPA is working with Formosa to retrieve and consolidate this debris on-site now. If citizens find debris related to the incident, please contact Formosa at (217) 486-6500. (Please do not move the debris, since its location may assist the investigators.)

Is it safe to go ahead and plant a garden on my property?

At this time, Illinois EPA has no information that would lead us to believe that it is not safe to plant a garden. We expect to have further information, within the next few weeks, about environmental conditions in the community around the site. So, before anyone would be harvesting produce, we should have an update to that question. Illinois EPA will coordinate information with the Illinois Department of Public Health to respond to this question.

Will there be a public meeting soon, where I could ask questions and see the available sampling results?

Yes. Illinois EPA plans to hold a public availability session as soon as we have most of the data back from the investigation, hopefully within the month. Staff will be available to answer questions one-on-one to residents. We will coordinate this meeting with U.S. EPA, both Sangamon County Public Health and the Illinois Department of Public Health, and with local officials (as well as representatives from Formosa Plastics). Note: Data from any private property samples are releasable only to the property owners, under the state confidentiality laws.

What is happening on the site now?

Currently, the U. S. Chemical Safety Hazard Investigation Board has control of the site and is conducting an accident investigation. Consequently, on-site sampling for the environmental investigation won’t begin until the site is released by that Agency. OSHA is also on the scene evaluating potential dangers for site workers. Meanwhile, Illinois EPA has asked for a sampling plan from Formosa that will assess site conditions as well as conditions in the surrounding area.

CTEH is performing ongoing air sampling for asbestos and vinyl chloride. In addition, Formosa has set up site security and safety plans to protect site investigators and to preserve the scene of the incident that is under investigation. Parts of the site have been evaluated for asbestos-containing materials and plans are being made for proper removal and disposal of that material. Formosa is in the process of securing contractors trained and licensed to handle hazardous materials to do work on the site.

Information Repository

Illinois EPA has established a public repository for site-related information at the Illiopolis/Niantic Public Library District at Sixth and Mary Streets in Illiopolis. As Illinois EPA receives reports related to the investigation, monitoring and cleanup, we will make these items available in the repository (in the library reference section) where residents may view and copy them at their convenience. The library hours are Monday and Friday – 1:00 to 5:00 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday – 1:00 to 8:00 p.m., Wednesday – 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Saturday – 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Illinois EPA will make updates to the web page for the Village of Illiopolis. You may find this fact sheet and other updates at

For more information, you may contact:

Carol Fuller, Community Relations Coordinator

Illinois EPA, Office of Community Relations

(217) 524-8807
Joe Dombrowski, Project Manager

Illinois EPA State Sites Unit

(217) 558-2564