ROCKTON, Ill. (WTVO) — Chemtool is advising Rockton residents to be wary of possible scammers preying upon residents in the aftermath of the massive fire last week.
Chemtool, at 1165 Prairie Hill Road, caught fire and exploded on Monday, June 14th, sending debris and a dark cloud of smoke into the sky for miles. Residents and businesses within a one-mile radius of the chemical plant were evacuated until last Friday.
Jim Oster, a Rockton homeowner, said someone claiming to be a Chemtool employee called him and said they wanted to remedy any damages to his home.
“We didn’t want to pursue this – we weren’t sure who was really contacting us, especially if this was Chemtool – this just didn’t sit right,” Oster said after receiving a call Monday. The person allegedly identified themselves as being with Citizens for Chemtool Fire.
“Then I asked if they are a Chemtool employee, and they repeated the same line. And then I asked, ‘are you a Chemtool employee?’ and they said ‘yes!'” he recalled.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Winnebago County Health Department have crews conducting assessments of the impact of the disaster on properties within the one-mile evacuation zone.
Chemtool said Wednesday, “The only Chemtool representatives in the area are from Clean Harbors and they are there in response to a direct request for debris clean up. Any company representative will identify themselves upfront, have proper identification and never ask for sensitive information.”
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.
Dennis Horton, the director of the Rockford Region Better Business Bureau, said after disasters, scammers often go door-to-door.
“It’s quite possible that they are simply using a phone number of a business, and that business is fully unaware of it,” Horton said. “If you engage with these folks, you just put yourself in the position of losing money first, and, depending on what information you’re providing, opening yourself up to identity theft.”
Oster said he was skeptical about the call, so instead of giving out any information, he told the caller he would call back.
“I did try calling the number today and it happened to go to a business in Benton Harbor, Michigan, a tool and die business,” he said.
The company, New Products Corporation, said they had no connection to Chemtool or any idea why their number was being used.
The full statement released by Lubrizol, the company that owns Chemtool, follows.
As we move forward from the fire at the Chemtool facility, our focus is ensuring the community is safe and that residents of Rockton can feel comfortable and assured that their health and the health of their families is not at risk. Understandably, the Rockton community is looking for answers, and residents have raised questions about what was burned in the fire, firefighting materials, containment methods, debris removal and sampling results. Here is some additional information:
Firefighting Foam — We know there have been questions raised about the firefighting foam and its impact on community and environmental health. The foam applied to suppress the fire was used in a diluted form.
Fluorinated foam was used in the early stages of firefighting efforts for a limited time given the heightened risk of letting the fire burn and spread. This closely monitored foam was limited to a portion of the site, backed by a containment plan. Fluorinated foam is twice as effective as non-fluorinated foam in suppressing a fire like the one we experienced and offered the best chance to control the fire in the shortest amount of time.
Before any foam was applied, Lubrizol and US Fire Pumps teams instituted measures to contain these materials. This included digging containment trenches around the property, applying absorbent materials and vacuuming foam and water into industrial storage tanks for appropriate disposal.
We continue to run tests of the soil and water to further validate the effectiveness of the containment measures.
Ongoing Testing — Importantly, Local EPA, public health authorities and multiple third-party experts are conducting air sampling in the area to monitor this event. To date, these analyses do not show negative health risk other than the short-term irritation one would normally experience in the presence of smoke. We hope these results give residents peace of mind, but the work does not stop here. We are fully committed to ongoing testing.
Debris Removal — We understand residents’ expectation to have fire-related debris removed from their yards and surfaces of their properties cleaned as swiftly as possible. We have been working with Clean Harbors to ensure they can service as many residents as efficiently as possible.
This service has already helped hundreds, and we expect remaining calls logged to-date will be serviced by the end of the week. When a resident calls the Clean Harbors hotline, the call is logged and placed on the service list. Residents need only call once. We will continue to provide this service as long as it’s needed.
All fire-related debris collected by Clean Harbors will be sent to an EPA approved facility for disposal in accordance with all regulatory requirements.
Resident-Directed Cleaning – Clean Harbors is available to all for debris removal and some clean-up. In addition, residents can follow self-cleaning recommendations put forth by the Health Department and use household degreasing soap or cleaners for safe cleaning.
We continue to work in close collaboration with all local, state and national authorities. In the coming weeks and months, we will be sharing information on the next stage of site clean-up. We know this is a period of concern and frustration and we sincerely apologize for the disruption. We will continue to provide support to the Rockton community to help our neighbors recover.