Police and emergency management officials believe an arcing power line in the sewer system is responsible for a dramatic explosion early Thursday that sent manhole covers flying in the village of Sauget.
Chief Patrick Delaney of the Sauget Police Department said the village's sewer system lost power about 5:15 a.m. for unknown reasons. When workers tried to re-energized the power lines to the sewer system an explosion was triggered that blew manhole covers high enough into the air to damage overhead power lines.
"We believe that all the repairs to the power lines have finally been made by Ameren and they're going to start warming up the power lines shortly," Delaney said at about 1:30 p.m. "They think the arcing lines ignited the sewer gas. We have no reason to believe there was any kind of chemical leak that caused the explosion."
St. Clair County Emergency Management workers were at the scene midday but had not commented about what they believe caused the explosion. The agency posted on its Facebook page that it was investigating a possible hazardous materials spill but did not say what contaminants they thought may have been spread by the blast.
Delaney said the explosion seemed to be centered in the area in front of the Afton chemical plant at 501 Monsanto Ave. The road was initially closed to traffic initially but had reopened by 4:45 p.m.
A power line that fell over Illinois 3 was removed Thursday morning and traffic is flowing on that road. Delaney said he expects no problems on Illinois 3 during the afternoon rush.
One person, an employee at Afton, suffered injuries due to the explosion, according to Delaney. Afton spokeswoman Carolyn Garrett said the injuries were minor and the male employee returned to work to finish his shift.
Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 239-2626.