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By Jim Youngquist

[APRIL 25, 2005]  At the first meeting of the Concerned Citizens of Logan County, a group opposed to the proposed location of the ethanol plant in Logan County, a piece of information was delivered by founding member Sharon Pierce. That piece of information has taken on a life of its own and seems to be evolving.

While researching prior to the first meeting of the CCLC, Sharon and her husband, Ron, came across information on the Web about an ethanol plant accident in Pennsylvania in which there was an anhydrous ammonia leak. Officials there responded by calling for an evacuation of citizens within a 2.5-mile area, a common call in case of an anhydrous leak. Anhydrous ammonia is used in ethanol plants in the scrubber operation.

The audience at that meeting added this information about the evacuation to their understanding of the dangers of ethanol plants in populated areas.

Several weeks later LDN received a letter to the editor which seemed to evolve the concept from an anhydrous ammonia evacuation to the general sense of a "mandatory evacuation zone" for any emergency related to an ethanol plant.

Finally, in the letter we have published today from a reader, the concept seems to have now transitioned to a 2.5 mile "area of the explosive arc" of an ethanol plant.

At LDN we believe that all those who are contributing to the collection of information about the dangers of ethanol plants are well-meaning, educated and genuinely concerned for the community.

My research into this subject has turned up few actual ethanol-related incidents, mostly related to the transport of ethanol products via rail. In light of the rest of the energy industry, ethanol production and transport has been far below the incident rate of the rest of the energy industry. [Check out such websites as and
.] [To download Adobe Reader for the PDF file, click here.]

Any time an industry is proposed for a populated area, the community should do all it can to determine what the possible risks are and what the impact of that industry will be on the neighborhood.

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My research regarding the dangers of ethanol plants has found that there are no "mandatory evacuation zones." Evacuation does not seem to be mandated by law or regulation, but is the result of the threat assessment by the "first responders" at an actual incident. In the case of an anhydrous leak anywhere in the Logan County area, the emergency plan and the first responders would probably call for people to stay in their homes as opposed to fleeing the area, since anhydrous ammonia dissipates quickly.

If there is an "explosion arc" zone, neither Illini Bio-Energy developers, ethanol and petroleum industry insiders, or emergency services officials seem to know of it.

Illini Bio-Energy is mandated to file a state-required report of all risks associated with their facility prior to building the plant and housing the chemicals. In addition they are required to work with the Logan County Local Emergency Planning Committee to develop a comprehensive emergency management strategy for their facility and the community. Terry Storer of the Logan County LEPC says that the SERC State Emergency Response Commission will regulate the emergency plan for the ethanol plant.

The study to locate the ethanol plant at the proposed site in Logan County is still in the very early stages. Sarah Wilcox of Illini Bio-Energy said that it is too early to begin working on the details with LEPC, EPA or SERC. At this point their efforts are being expended to determine if locating at the proposed site is practical or possible.

Any further information about associated risks should be carefully considered by the community. If you have such information, please e-mail it to the CCLC [], Sarah Wilcox of Illini Bio-Energy [] and LDN [].

[Jim Youngquist]

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