Explosion and fire injures 8 workers at Illinois soybean processing plant

DECATUR, Ill. (AP) — An explosion and fire at a soybean processing facility in Illinois injured eight employees over the weekend and sent a tower of smoke into the air, officials said Monday.

The explosion occurred at the east plant in the Archer Daniels Midland processing complex shortly after 7 p.m. Sunday in Decatur, about 150 miles (240 kilometers) southwest of Chicago, the agricultural company said in a statement on its website.

Six of the eight injured workers were taken from the scene by ambulance with the “extent of injuries unknown,” Battalion Chief Wade Watson with the Decatur Fire Department said in a statement Monday morning.

ADM said in a statement early Monday afternoon that five employees remained in hospitalized “receiving treatment for their injuries” and added that the company's “priority is providing our injured colleagues and their families support.”

The explosion was followed by a large plume of dark smoke high above the facility in a video posted by WCIA-TV.

The Chicago-based company said the plant where the explosion occurred produces soybean oil and white flake for soybean protein production. That plant is currently idle and ADM's adjacent corn processing plant is “also temporarily down until we can safely resume operations," the company said.

“The main fire was extinguished overnight, and we are continuing to closely monitor and assess the extent of the damage to the complex as we investigate the cause of the incident,” ADM said.

The Decatur Fire Department said a fire crew remains on the scene monitoring hot spots and the cause of the explosion and fire remains under investigation.

The explosion is the second episode at the plant in less than a month, the (Decatur) Herald & Review reported. On Aug. 28, two Decatur firefighters required hospital treatment after they battled a large fire at the plant. In that instance, crews found heavy fire in a processing tank that was spreading into adjacent tanks.