An empty cement lot and a few plastic containers are all that remain at the site of the old Nova-Kem chemical plant in Seward, IL.
An explosion at the facility rocked the small town back in June of 2013, prompting the evacuation of hundreds of residents. Not long after, Winnebago County filed a civil lawsuit against Nova-Kem – alleging that they put the community and the environment in danger.
The company finally settled that lawsuit Friday — paying the county $5,000. They also owe the IEPA $90,000.
Tari Woods lives just feet away from where the explosion occurred and says she remembers the chaos that day.
“There was some commotion across the street, I heard someone come out in some kind of a suit, and they were yelling and they were on the phone with 911 yelling for someone to help them,” remembers Woods. “I yelled over and said ‘Should we be of concern?’ and he said ‘Yes, get out of town.'”
Woods says she gathered her family as quickly as she could and left. The IEPA would not allow her to return home for several days as they tested the water, air and ground soil.
She says that while she’s glad the county has settled their lawsuit with Nova-Kem, it’s hard to put a price on what happened that day.
“To sit here and say $100,000 is adequate, it’s just, you know, my life is very fragile, so it’s hard to put money on it,” said Woods.
But now the question is: Will Nova-Kem return to Seward? Woods says even if the IEPA cleared their return, the town’s residents likely would not.
“As far as if we’re going to welcome them with open arms, it definitely would be something that a lot of people are just like, ‘It was very too stressful and too much of a traumatic situation to go through,” said Woods.