MARENGO, Iowa (KCRG) – The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has issued an emergency order to stop C6-Zero from operating in the state of Iowa after its Marengo plant exploded and injured more than ten people last week.
The order says the facility is “a clear threat to public health and the environment” and that another “catastrophic event” is possible because the department does not know what chemicals and flammable gases remain inside. of the damaged building.
That emergency order also said large pools of contaminated water runoff are discharging into Iowa groundwater and into the Iowa River, which the report says is a source of water for Iowa City and other municipalities. He also said the state had attempted to regulate the facility several times over the past two years, including days before the explosion.
According to C6-Zero, the company has the ability to process used roofing shingles into oil, fiberglass and sand. The company said it creates the oil by soaking the shingle in a solution rather than putting it through a machine. According to this report, a C6 Zero employee told Iowa DNR that he plans to process 800 tons of shingles per day with a storage capacity of 2,400 tons of shingles.
The report also states that almost half of the workers at the C6-Zero factory in Marengo were injured in the explosion. He said injuries included severe burns, other trauma and two people remain in the burn unit at the University of Iowa. The report indicates that one of these people is intubated and on a ventilator.
A GoFundMe page has been created for one of the workers injured in the explosion named Cody Blasberg. According to the page organizer, he suffered severe burns and was intubated and on a ventilator about seven days ago. Blasberg, according to the page, has a daughter and expects to father twins in February.
According to this report, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources said that C6-Zero and Howard Brand, the company’s co-founder, failed to comply with Iowa laws and regulations relating to hazardous conditions, water, solid waste and legitimate recycling laws. He also said the company is responsible for covering all costs resulting from the explosion and fire.
“In addition, the explosion and fire resulted in violations of Iowa hazardous conditions and water quality regulations,” the order reads. “Consistent with these regulations, the DNR has determined that C6-Zero and Howard Brand are the responsible parties for all repair costs resulting from the explosion and fire.”
Marengo Police Chief Brian Gray said firefighters filed a claim with C6-Zero’s insurance to pay for cleaning up oil stains during the firefighting, which could cost the city about $80,000.
The order requires the immediate stabilization of hazardous conditions and the removal of all solid waste from the site. He also notes that the department has the ability to impose fines for violations ranging from $1,000 per day to $10,000 per day.
Regulators in two different states found that the company’s founder, Howard Brand, had previously violated state laws regarding solid waste regulations. According to documents, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality fined Brand $27,500 in 2017 for not receiving permission from the state agency to dispose of used asphalt shingles. under another company.
About two years later, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said Brand and another man violated the state’s Solid Waste Disposal Sites and Facilities Act and related regulations. at solid waste sites and facilities. It’s unclear whether the company, which was called Brand Technologies, received a consequence for having unrecyclable materials like 1,300 tons of waste asphalt shingles and other roofing debris on the ground.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources said it has been made aware of the issues with Brand and its businesses by regulatory agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Environmental Quality Department of Louisiana, the Texas Department of Environmental Quality, and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment early on. in May 2021. Next, the report details a list of actions taken by the ministry to regulate the facility for a period exceeding one year.
These actions included telephone conversations with employees, visits to the C6-Zero factory, multiple meetings and multiple requests for information.
According to this report, the company did not allow MNR personnel to enter and inspect the facility multiple times to check for asphalt shingles, such as those on a roof. This meant that MNR could only see the exterior of the building rather than the interior.
Logan Homer, who said he worked for C6-Zero Employee and received a paycheck from the company named in the Colorado complaint, said C6-Zero asked employees not to talk about processes inside of the factory and not to allow employees to take pictures inside. ease. He also said the plant continually had chemical leaks, puddles of diesel fuel on the plant floor and fires every other day.
A spokesperson for C6-Zero said Homer’s categorization of its factory is categorically false in a written statement.
According to city officials, the town of Marengo learned that C6-Zero was using chemicals after a fire in October. More than a month later, officials said they still don’t know what chemicals were used in the building because the company hadn’t completed the required form called Tier Two. The Department of Natural Resources said it continually asked the company to complete the form and inspect the ‘background’ of the operation of the facility after it was refused, up to three days before the blast. This report explains that the department continually wanted to see the entire facility, but were refused.
Brand has consistently criticized regulators and said they created “false truths” around the process in online blog posts, which have since been deleted.
“Regulatory agencies don’t always understand new technologies,” he writes. “Not understanding is human nature and assuming the worst is unfortunately another human trait as well.”
A spokesperson for C6 Zero said the company has already complied with several sections of the order and will remain closed in a written statement. He wrote that the company believed it was exempt from an air permit and had sent a document explaining why it was exempt to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
“As C6-Zero continued to move from a pilot phase to a production phase, the company worked with IDNR on regular testing to ensure that C6-Zero continued to meet exemption requirements, including two industrial carbon air filters at the Marengo facility. to ensure good air quality,” a C6-Zero spokesperson wrote. “IDNR saw these units on their tour in November.”
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources said it was not permitted to view the entire facility and has not made any final decision on environmental requirements because C6-Zero had not not provided all the information needed to complete the review.
Tammie Krausman, who is a spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said in an email that no final decision on environmental requirements has been made since the facility has not provided all the information needed to complete the review.
“C6Zero has self-determined that they are exempt from air quality permits and meet all air quality requirements,” said Tammie Krausman, spokeswoman for the Department of Natural Resources.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources said in that order that it found several large, ankle-deep pools of unknown free product and/or contaminated water with a dark color and oily sheen, parts of the roof and missing wall, large piles of loose crushed shingles, at least two very large chemical vats containing flammable materials, large expanses of black stained ground and grass, and large quantities of unknown chemicals in buckets , barrels and gas tanks.
TV9 asked a spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources some follow-up questions about the report late Friday afternoon and had no response at the time of publication.
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