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General Iron Scrap Yard Shut Down After Explosion; Spokesperson Says Investigating Causes Including 'Potential Sabotage'

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A controversial Lincoln Park shredding plant has been shut down, effective immediately, following an explosion Monday morning. Residents fighting for the closure for years say it's about time.

Tuesday a General Iron spokesperson would not elaborate after saying they are "investigating all possible causes, including potential sabotage."

RELATED: General Iron Scrap Yard Ordered To Close After Two Explosions

Meanwhile, residents say their air monitors provided some good news one day after the shutdown.

"My entire house shook," said Lincoln Park resident Lara Compton.

"The alarm in my house was set off. A painting fell off my wall," Ivy Tzur said.

There was an explosion and an enormous plume of smoke around 9 a.m. Monday centered around a blue structure at General Iron's Lincoln Park metal recycling facility.

"OK, is this going to be the thing that finally gets our elected officials to act on this serial polluter during a time of a respiratory pandemic?" said Compton.

She and her neighbors have been worried about the chemical odor and toxic fluff, or fugitive dust, accumulating on the streets and cracks in the sidewalks for years.

"It honestly smells like petroleum or gas smell in the air," she said. "It puts us at risk."

General Iron has a history of violations with Illinois EPA and Chicago health inspectors for the toxic fluff and excessive air emissions. It's been a lengthy battle to relocate the facility, which is why 2nd Ward Ald. Brian Hopkins said he was glad the city didn't wait to order the closure.

"It didn't make sense to allow them to continue operating in the middle of a respiratory virus pandemic when we all know the risks," he said.

After a spike in pollution readings on their private air monitors Monday Tzur said it's concerning.

"After an explosion like that, being afraid to walk outside and to breath the air to let your kids outside," Tzur said.

These residents were happy to report a dip Tuesday morning, after the plant's closing.

General Iron was already under an agreement to cease operations in the location by December 2020. Hopkins said he will oppose them reopening at this Lincoln Park site before then.

General Iron is not giving a cause but a spokesperson said shredding operations have ceased for the present time. Again a spokesperson declined CBS 2's request for an interview but said they would likely be releasing more information Tuesday

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