Chemtool accused of serious safety violations, may face legal action, says Illinois EPA

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WTVO) — The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is asking the Illinois Attorney General to pursue legal action against Chemtool for a massive explosion and fire at the company’s Rockton facility on Monday.

According to a statement released by the IEPA, “In the referral, the Illinois EPA cites violations of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act and Illinois Pollution Control Board regulations by Chemtool for causing or allowing the release of pollution into the atmosphere. Additional violations may be added as information is available regarding the fire.

“The referral asks the Attorney General to pursue legal action and require Chemtool to immediately stop the release and provide documentation to the Illinois EPA including the cause of the fire, and an estimate of the nature and amount of any emissions of sulfuric acid mist, particulate matter, and other air contaminants emitted as a result of the fire.

“The Company will be asked to develop and implement a work plan to remove any hazardous material from the site and address other compliance issues related to the incident. Additional procedures shall be established to prevent the reoccurrence of future events,” the Illinois EPA said..

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.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says it had been investigating a safety complaint at the Rockton Chemtool plant prior to Monday’s explosion.

OSHA confirmed that a complaint was filed May 20th. There is no word what the nature of the complaint was regarding other than was a complaint regarding safety and health.

Officials say the massive fire could burn for days. Residents within a one mile radius of Chemtool, 1165 Prairie Hill Road, were asked to evacuate.

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.

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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