Morris Lithium Battery Fire

 
Site Contact:
Leonard Zintak
On-Scene Coordinator

(zintak.leonard@epa.gov)

Site Location:
East and Benton Streets
Morris, IL 60450
response.epa.gov/MorrisLithiumBatteryFire
NRC#: 1309187

October 13 Update

U.S. EPA continues to monitor the site and is providing support to the City of Morris.  Planning for a cleanup continues.  Air monitoring data is posted in the Documents section. 

July 27

U.S. EPA continues 12-hr/day daytime monitoring of air quality and is providing guidance and support to the Morris Fire Department and local, state and federal agencies. The air quality around the perimeter of the site and in the surrounding neighborhood is good.  Planning for a cleanup continues.  Air monitoring data continues to be posted in the Documents section.

July 18

U.S. EPA continues 24-hr monitoring of air quality and is providing guidance and support to the Morris Fire Department and local, state and federal agencies. The air quality around the perimeter of the site and in the surrounding neighborhood is good.  Planning for a cleanup continues.  Air monitoring data continues to be posted in the Documents section.

July 14 - July 17
U.S. EPA continues 24-hr monitoring of air quality and is providing guidance and support to the Morris Fire Department and local, state and federal agencies. The air quality around the perimeter of the site and in the surrounding neighborhood is good.  Planning for a cleanup continues.  Air monitoring data continues to be posted in the Documents section.

July 13
U.S. EPA continues 24-hr monitoring of air quality and is providing guidance and support to the Morris Fire Department and local, state and federal agencies. The air quality around the perimeter of the site and in the surrounding neighborhood is good.  Planning for a cleanup continues.  Air monitoring data continues to be posted in the Documents section.

July 11

U.S. EPA continues 24-hr monitoring of air quality and is providing guidance and support to the Morris Fire Department and local, state and federal agencies. The air quality around the perimeter of the site and in the surrounding neighborhood is good.  Planning for a cleanup continues.  Air monitoring data continues to be posted in the Documents section.

July 10
U.S. EPA continues 24-hr monitoring of air quality and is providing guidance and support to the Morris Fire Department and local, state and federal agencies. The air quality around the perimeter of the site and in the surrounding neighborhood is good.  Today, U.S. EPA in coordination with the Fire Dept, is securing the opening in the SE corner of the building to protect the area from rain and trespassing.  Planning for a cleanup continues.  Air monitoring data continues to be posted in the Documents section.

July 9
U.S. EPA continues to monitor air quality and to provide guidance and support to the Morris Fire Department and local, state and federal agencies. The air quality around the perimeter of the site and in the surrounding neighborhood is good. Today U.S. EPA provided support to the Fire department by removing part of an unstable brick/concrete wall near a smoldering hotspot inside the building. The Fire Department then took actions to extinguish the south hotspot inside the building.   Planning for a cleanup continues. The federal and state agencies continue to monitor the outfall. Air monitoring data continues to be posted in the Documents section.

July 8
U.S. EPA continues to monitor air quality and to provide guidance and support to the Morris Fire Department and local, state and federal agencies. The Fire Department has requested U.S. EPA’s support tomorrow (Friday) in removing part of an unstable brick/concrete wall near a smoldering hotspot inside the building. The Fire Department plans to apply water on Saturday to extinguish the hotspot.   

Illinois EPA has referred the post-fire activities to U.S. EPA. The federal and state agencies continue to monitor the outfall. Air monitoring data continues to be posted in the Documents section.

July 7
U.S. EPA continues to monitor outdoor air quality and provide guidance and support to the Morris Fire Department and local, state and federal agencies. Smoke is not visible inside the Superior Battery building and the north hotspot appears to be mostly extinguished. Plans are currently being developed to address the south hotspot in the building. Illinois EPA and U.S. EPA continue to monitor the outfall and have also collected water samples. Air monitoring data continues to be posted in the Documents section.

July 6
U.S. EPA continues to monitor outdoor air quality and provide guidance and support to the Morris Fire Department and local, state and federal agencies. Today, the fire department entered the Superior Battery building with U.S. EPA  providing support for air monitoring. Because there are holes in the roof and rain is in the forecast for tomorrow, containers that are alleged to have batteries but were not impacted by the June 29 fire will be covered with plastic. Illinois EPA and U.S. EPA continue to monitor the outfall.  Air monitoring data continues to be posted in the Documents section. 

July 5
U.S. EPA continues to conduct air monitoring and provide guidance and support to the Morris Fire Department and local, state and federal agencies. As of this morning there are no concerns with off-site air quality. A drone flyover was completed which included mapping the interior of the Superior Battery building and taking the temperature of the various hot spots. Plans were also made to make a Level B entry into the building on July 6. Illinois EPA and U.S. EPA continue to monitor the outfall. Air monitoring data continues to be posted in the Documents section.

July 4
U.S. EPA continues to conduct air monitoring and provide guidance and support to the Morris Fire Department and local, state and federal agencies. As of this morning there are no concerns with off-site air quality. Daily drone flyovers indicate the hot spot temperatures are dropping inside the Superior Battery building. Fire crews remain on standby at the scene.  All summary data will be posted on the website under the Documents section.

July 3
The evacuation order has been lifted and residents are moving back to their homes. U.S. EPA is monitoring air quality and continues to provide guidance and support to the Morris Fire Department and local, state and federal agencies. As of this morning, a fire crew remains on standby at the scene to monitor the Superior Battery building and any visible smoke on the site.

U.S. EPA will continue to post all summary data on the website under the Documents section.

July 2
The fire has been extinguished at the Superior Battery facility but the batteries continue to react. U.S. EPA is still on-site and continues to conduct air monitoring and provide guidance and support to the Morris Fire Department and local, state and federal agencies on-site.

As of this morning, particulate levels were below screening criteria set by ATSDR and IDPH and U.S. EPA has provided this data to the health agencies for their evacuation determination.

U.S. EPA will continue to post all summary data on the website under the Documents section.

July 1
U.S. EPA continues to provide guidance and support to the Morris Fire Department and the local, state and federal agencies on-site. Data from the fixed and roaming air monitors are being evaluated and data summary tables are provided in the Documents section. Preliminary overnight monitoring results showed instances of elevated particulates at the fence line of the Superior Battery facility. The agency continues to provide all data to the health agencies for their evacuation determination.

The particulate levels in the residential neighborhood surrounding Superior Battery were below health standards set by ATSDR and IDPH.

City and county drones were flown inside Superior Battery building to document and assess conditions. Temporary fencing has been erected to secure the Superior Battery facility. Containment trenching and sumps are being excavated by the city of Morris to contain any run-off if firefighting is necessary at Superior Battery.

June 30
U.S. EPA continues to provide guidance and support to the Morris Fire Department, the lead agency at the response. Data from the fixed and roaming air monitors are being evaluated and data summary tables are provided in the Documents section. Preliminary overnight monitoring results showed no exceedances for VOCs, particulates, or HF. The agency continues to provide all data to the health agencies for their evacuation determination.

Air monitoring during the day indicated one instance of elevated levels of particulates downwind of the fire. Particulate measurements at the eastern air monitoring station near the Evergreen Cemetery were above the ATSDR provided screening criteria. The concentration was not sustained for more than one hour.

Due to the lithium batteries contained within the building, the Morris Fire Department initially planned to let the fire burn itself out. After consulting with experts about lithium battery firefighting techniques, the fire department decided to apply a dry chemical agent called "Purple K," with a small amount of water to suppress the fire. Purple K, when used as a fire suppressing agent, will produce no toxic effects. At approximately 2 p.m. on June 30, the fire department removed part of the building wall and gained access to the fire from this location. They discovered a 30-by 40-foot area of burning batteries and applied the Purple K at approximately 3:30 p.m. The Purple K was unsuccessful in extinguishing the fire. After observing no adverse reaction to the application of Purple K and water, the fire department continued to apply water only to the burning area. They applied high flow water to the fire and once the batteries were cooled, the fire department applied Portland cement at approximately 6 p.m. The 30-by 40-foot battery area was covered with cement as well as a few hot spots within the building.

The fire department completed application of cement at approximately 11 p.m. on June 30 and have not observed any smoke from the batteries since. The Morris Fire Department remains the lead agency for the response. U.S. EPA provides support and guidance, but the fire chief has the final say how to best fight the fire. Illinois EPA is monitoring the water runoff from the fire suppression.

June 29
U.S. EPA responded to the Morris Lithium Battery Fire in Morris, Illinois, to provide guidance and support to the Morris Fire Department, the lead agency at the response. As of 6:30 p.m. on June 29, there were two U.S. EPA responders on-site, supported by eight contractors to set up a network of fixed and roaming air monitors around the perimeter of plume and within residential areas. As the wind direction changes, the roaming monitors are moved to follow the plume and to provide real-time data to the responders. U.S. EPA has five AreaRAE Pro monitors, five DustTrak monitors and multiple air samplers available for site use. The air monitoring network looks for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), oxygen (O2), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), carbon monoxide (CO), lower explosive limit (LEL), and particulates in coordination with the Illinois Civil Support Team. Because lithium battery fires can generate flouride gas emissions, U.S. EPA is also monitoring for hydrogen flouride (HF). U.S. EPA is currently evaluating the data received. Current data have not shown levels above Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) thresholds. This will be further evaluated.

Background

At approximately 12:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 29, 2021,  an old paper mill storing an estimated volume of 184,000 lbs of lithium batteries caught fire due to unknown causes. The Grundy County Emergency Management Agency ordered a 1/2 mile evacuation of nearby residents due to the presence of hazardous substances within the building. At approximately  2 p.m., Illinois EPA requested assistance from U.S. EPA due to the large scale of the fire and the proximity to residential areas. 

At the request of Illinois EPA, U.S. EPA is providing air monitoring support in response to the Morris Lithium Battery fire in Morris, Illinois. U.S. EPA will continue to update this web page.