Chemtool fire update: No timeline for evacuation zone to be lifted

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ROCKTON, Ill. (WTVO) — Rockton health officials say there is currently no timeline for the one-mile evacuation zone around the Chemtool facility to be lifted, as test results of falling material dispersed into the air have yet to be returned by the EPA.

Winnebago County Health officials said Wednesday that air pollution tests have shown that the breathable air at ground level is safe. Residents with respiratory conditions are encouraged to wear masks as a precaution.

The health department said Thursday, “Regarding air and water quality, the air quality is continuously being assessed from over 30 monitoring devices at ground level throughout Winnebago County. These monitors are moved at regular intervals to obtain comprehensive sampling. Water samples are being collected from the Rock River, sentinel wells, wastewater treatment plants, sanitation lines on site, and water runoff from fire suppression.  Sampling will also be done in storm sewers on a pre-determined schedule to assess for contaminants. Soil sampling will be one component of the sample of the debris/ash from the fire in the evacuation zone that will be collected from a representative sample. Sampling will be expanded beyond the evacuation zone to determine the concentration in these areas.”

Rockton Fire Chief Kirk Wilson asked for patience, adding, “The fire is contained as fire suppression efforts continue. As materials are moved, there may be flare ups, but the fire is contained.”

Lubrizol released a response Thursday morning, saying the materials that were burned in the Rockton Chemtool plant fire Monday do not pose a health risk.

The company states, “We are confident that the materials burned in the fire pose no health risk in the short or long-term, other than the short-term irritation one would normally experience in the presence of smoke.”

Requests for reimbursement for personal expenses tied to the evacuation, such as hotel stays, can be made via a claim form posted at www.Lubrizol.com/Rockton.

Health officials have permitted Rockton’s Old Settlers Days festival, at Settler’s Park, to go on as planned this weekend. The fairgrounds are located just outside the one-mile evacuation zone.

The Village of Rockton encourages residents and the public to visit the Winnebago County Health Department’s website for up-to-date FAQs at www.wchd.org/fire. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 (Great Lakes Region) also has a website dedicated to providing air quality summaries at: https://response.epa.gov/ChemtoolFire. Those with fire debris on their property should contact Clean Harbors at 877-552-8942. To file claims for reimbursement related to the evacuation, residents can access a claim form at www.wchd.org/fire

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