Evacuation order still in effect Wednesday for Rockton residents impacted by Chemtool fire

State News

ROCKTON, Ill. (WTVO) — Officials say the evacuation order is still in effect Wednesday for Rockton residents who live within one mile of the Chemtool facility, which exploded on Monday.

At a press briefing Fire Chief Kirk Wilson said the Winnebago County Health Department (WCHD) is reviewing data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and they hope to have more information around 1 p.m. today.

Neighbors living within a mile of the Chemtool facility, at 1165 Prairie Hill Road, were evacuated after the plant exploded. Officials said Tuesday that air quality, soil and water samples are being monitored, and they may be allowed to return on Wednesday.

“The plume of smoke has clearly much dissipated but we want to make sure that what we can’t see that our air is of high quality. [We’re going to have] one more night in the evacuation to make sure those numbers stay for us and hold with the change in atmospheric condition,” WCHD director Dr. Sandra Martell said at a press conference Tuesday.

Wilson said the fire is contained and so far, no toxins have been detected in the Rock River or Rockton’s water system.

Authorities said Tuesday they found hydrogen cyanide outside of the facility in elevated levels.

The health department is advising residents within a 3 mile radius of the Chemtool plant to wear a mask.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has issued a Air Quality Advisory for all residents of Winnebago County, including the City of Rockford, following Monday’s Chemtool plant explosion in Rockton.

The advisory remains in effect until 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Wilson said firefighters have made “significant progress” on containing the fire and the suppression efforts are still ongoing.

An industrial firefighting team from Louisiana, US Fire Pump, has been spraying foam on the fire and digging trenches around the facility to mitigate residual chemical leakage. Wilson said the foam being used is safe for the environment.

Rockton Police say residents can call 877-552-8942 to arrange to have the fire-related debris removed for them, rather that removing it themselves. A contactor, Clean Harbors, has been arranged by the Lubrizol Foundation, the parent company of Chemtool, to assist the residents in removing fire-related debris from residential homes and businesses in the area.

On Tuesday, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency asked the Illinois Attorney General to pursue legal action against Chemtool for environmental violations.

Lubrizol, the company that owns Chemtool, responded Wednesday, saying, “We have heard the Illinois EPA has issued a referral to the Illinois Attorney General’s office. We understand this action, and we will of course work with State and Federal regulators to address the concerns raised in the referral. This would include working to address any pollution issues as we have since this incident began and executing a site clean-up once the fire has been extinguished.”

Officials said the company stored lead, antifreeze, nitrogen, and sulfuric acid, among other chemicals.

Winnebago County Board Chairman Joseph Chiarelli issued a disaster emergency proclamation on Tuesday, in order to bring aid to the county through the Illinois Emergency Management Act. The proclamation expires on Monday, June 21st.

A hotline has been set up at 815-972-7300 and RocktonChemFire@wchd.org for residents who are seeking relief information.

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