A look at VIM one year after massive explosion

By: Alana Greenfogel Email
By: Alana Greenfogel Email

One year after a massive explosion killed one employee, seriously injured another, and destroyed VIM Recycling in Elkart, the plant is up and running. Meanwhile, neighbors are still trying to shut it down.

"We're doing more than 400 tons a day of just wood products," explains Ken Will, VIM's owner, as he shows us upgrades around the grounds.

"The right answer is not to fold the tent and close, but to finish the project we started out," Will says.

Will points out the new building, which isn't running yet, but is expected to be in the next few months. The owner says new safety equipment and a new dust collecting system are in place. It was the old dust collecting system that exploded a year ago.

Will shows us roads created in the back for emergency vehicles, as well as five designated fire extinguishers.

"We started from scratch rebuilding the building. We started from scratch on our technology. And we spent a year researching what has happened from 2000 when we built it the first time versus what's out there today and things are getting exciting," Will says.

Even with all the changes, one thing hasn't changed. Some neighbors say they live uncomfortably and fear another explosion.

"A lot of stuff we've been promised is gonna happen we haven't seen happen a year later," says Robert Pedzinski, who lives nearby.

"I am seeing more homes going for sale. Part of it might be the economy. Some of it might be people are just fed up with it. A lot of people around the neighborhood are just tired. They're tired of fighting and finding out nothing's gonna happen," Pedzinski says.

On July 10th, VIM will present what's called a Planned Unit Development, PUD, to the Elkhart County Planning and Development Committee. Basically, that establishes conditions and uses for the site. It's a detailed plan on what can be done on the property and will aid the board in enforcement.

"We look at it everyday as improving on the day of the past," Will says. "Everyday is a new day and you have to have a positive attitude. That's what keeps us going. That's what made us decide on the day of the fire, we couldn't stop now. We were so close."

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