Attorney general sues Illinois battery company after its facility caught fire

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GRUNDY COUNTY, Ill. (WEHT)– The state of Illinois is suing a battery company following a massive fire at its facility nearly two months ago. Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul joined Grundy County State’s Attorney Jason Helland in taking action against Superior Battery, Inc. The fire that happened at Superior Battery’s facility on June 29 in Morris, more than 60 miles southwest of Chicago, prompted evacuations and a state emergency response.

Fire officials say 180,000-200,000 pounds of lithium batteries burned for four days. The lawsuit alleges fire debris and toxic air emissions were discharged into the surrounding neighborhood. Raoul and Helland’s lawsuit was filed in Grundy County Circuit Court.

Since the city of Morris had not received a request for a business license that would allow Superior Battery to operate at the facility, the city did not know of the company’s existence or what was inside the building until the fire occurred. 

“The Superior Battery Fire not only displaced residents but put their health and safety at risk and caused a significant threat to the environment,” Raoul said. “My office, in collaboration with the Grundy County State’s Attorney’s office will work to hold Superior Battery responsible for the damage caused by its irresponsible actions and ensure that no further harm will be done to the environment or public’s well-being.”

Raoul’s lawsuit is based on referrals from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA).

“Our office was part of a broad State response to the dangerous fire at Superior Battery, a situation that posed serious health risks to nearby residents and created dangerous conditions for first responders,” IEPA Director John Kim said.  “The complaint filed by Attorney General Raoul and State’s Attorney Helland will ensure that Superior Battery will be held responsible for the negative impacts to the environment by requiring necessary steps to remediate the situation and to prevent any such events in the future.”

“The role of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency is to help the residents of our state and our local governments prepare for and respond to all-natural, manmade or technological disasters, hazards or acts of terrorism,” IEMA Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau said. “Responding to an incident of this nature puts our first responders at great risk and assumes a financial cost.  This lawsuit seeks to reimburse the state for costs incurred from this incident.”

According to Raoul and Helland’s lawsuit, air monitors recorded two exceedances of the Public Health Screening Standard for VOC levels at two separate locations, PM levels that were exceeded at least nine times at six separate locations, and HF present in at least one location. Additionally, airborne debris from the fire, including ash and other unknown material, landed on buildings and the ground, as well as residences, yards, and mailboxes in the vicinity. Raoul and Helland also allege that fire debris and toxic air emissions were discharged from the site into the surrounding neighborhood, reaching the sanitary sewer and the stormwater system that discharges to the I & M Canal. Raoul and Helland also allege that toxic emissions and fire debris will continue to be released from the site into the environment, causing a substantial danger to the public’s health and welfare, as well as the environment.

Raoul and Helland’s lawsuit seeks to require Superior Battery to take immediate corrective actions to address the release of pollutants to air, water and land. The lawsuit also seeks to require Superior Battery to take preventative actions to avoid the future release of pollutants, and pay civil penalties.

Assistant Attorneys General Arlene Haas and Nancy Tikalsky are handling the case for Raoul’s Environmental Bureau.

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