Custar co-op says no fire, no danger to residents after grain silo explosion

CUSTAR, Ohio (WTVG) - It's been a rough year for the small village of Custar.

An explosion at a grain silo at Legacy Farmers in September has left residents in the town of 200 uneasy and staying inside.

Multiple residents have reached out to 13abc for answers after they say that they're not only afraid of another explosion, but they're tired of the smell.

13abc reached out to Legacy Farmers President/CEO Mark Sunderman. He assures that the fire is out, and there is no danger to the people who live near the Custar location.

He says that an explosion did take place in September. The origin of that explosion: wet grain. Sunderman explains that the grain harvest from the previous season was so large, workers were forced to keep grain outside of the silo. As it sat there, the grain warmed up, and "fell out of condition" after it was later stored in the elevator. That allowed a fire to smolder, and eventually an explosion.

In all, 3 silos were damaged of the 50 on the property, including a crack in the roof of one of them.

Sunderman says that after the explosion, workers had to cut holes in the sides of the affected silo to access the grain, as well as air out the elevators. That cut down on the risk of another explosion. At this point, Sunderman says that the silos are nearly empty, and cleanup should be finished later this week.

But Custar Mayor Renee Hartman tells 13abc that the village's struggle with Legacy Farmers dates back farther than September. She says that, as early as May, she can remember the smell from the farm reached all parts of the town, depending on the direction of the wind. And Hartman says it was because grain had been stored outside, without a cover.

She says that city council considered establishing an ordinance that would prohibit outside grain storage without a tarp, but the legal director advised against it, stating a move like that would make it seem like the village was targeting the business.

She took her concern to the EPA, who had just renewed operating permits for Legacy Farmers in May. 13abc reached out to the EPA, and they responded with the following statement:

"Ohio EPA is in contact with Legacy Farmers Co-op as the company’s contractor continues to empty the corn from the silos and complete cleanup. In the most recent update last week, the company said one silo was empty and another is nearly empty. During this process, regulations require the company to manage the corn and debris to minimize contaminated stormwater runoff, and to properly remove the corn waste for composting or disposal."

Hartman tells 13abc she hopes this situation discourages Legacy Farmers from storing grain outside, especially during the winter. Mark Sunderman tells 13abc leaders with the company have decided to avoid open storage. As the company assures no danger to neighbors, Hartman says she believes the worst is behind them.