Officials say Rockton air free of contaminants from Chemtool fire

State News

ROCKTON, Ill. (WTVO) — Fire and health officials say no contaminants have been detected in the air quality due to Monday’s still-burning fire at the Chemtool plant in Rockton.

At a Tuesday morning press conference, Rockton Fire Chief Kirk Wilson said that air monitoring devices have been set up throughout the community, and no contaminants have been detected in ground air quality.

Wilson said more than 80 fire departments from across the nation, including an industrial firefighting crew from Louisiana, US Fire Pump, have been brought in to help combat the ongoing blaze.

The crew will apply fire suppressant foam to help extinguish the half a million gallons of oil which are still burning at the plant.

Wilson said the firefighters have dug trenches to the West of the structure to prevent any residual toxic material from leaking into the Rock River, Wilson said. Absorbent barricades are also being placed in the river, he added.

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

Representatives from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and Chemtool said they will continue to monitor the surrounding environment, including the air, the Rock River and ground water, for contaminants.

Chemtool’s VP of Operations Bill Snyder apologized to the community, saying the impact of the fire is “heartbreaking.”

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.

The fire continued to burn overnight. Officials have said that they anticipate it will burn for several days, until the oil-based products manufactured at the plant burn off.

Residents within a one mile radius of Chemtool, 1165 Prairie Hill Road, were asked to evacuate due to possible dangerous chemicals being released in a large fire at the facility Monday morning.

Wilson said Tuesday the evacuation order still remains in effect as of Tuesday.

Approximately 70 employees were evacuated and were uninjured. Rockton Fire Chief Kirk Wilson said one firefighter was treated for inhalation injuries and another treated for a leg injury. Wilson said both were released from the hospital yesterday.

A massive dark plume of smoke extended south-southeast from the fire, raining ash and debris on residents as far south as DeKalb.

Rockton Middle School, at 6121 Elevator Rd, has been set up as an evacuation site.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is on-scene to determine if hazardous chemicals are a danger to surrounding residents following Monday’s massive fire at Chemtool.

The company manufactures fluids, lubricants and grease products which are distributed worldwide.

The Winnebago County Emergency Operations Center is tracking the smoke plume and wind direction, and says the area directly impacted is two miles to the south of Chemtool.

The county health department is asking residents within one mile of Chemtool to evacuate, and those within 2 miles to stay indoors and close windows and doors, and turn off air conditioners.

The Illinois Department of Public Health is advising those residents to wear a mask if they are within 3 miles of Chemtool.

Wilson asked residents who have found building debris in their lawns to rake it up and put it in a trash bag separate from their household trash.

Winnebago County Health Department Dr. Sandra Martell advised against residents touching the debris with their hands.

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