EPA to monitor air quality during Rockton’s Old Settlers Days

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ROCKTON, Ill. (WTVO) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday that, at the request of Rockton Mayor John Peterson, it would be operating an air monitoring network during the Old Settlers Days festival.

“The agency has set up fixed monitors in and around the area to monitor for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), oxygen (O2), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), carbon monoxide (CO), lower explosive limit (LEL), and particulates. U.S. EPA will provide the data in real-time to village and county health officials so they can make any decisions necessary to protect the health of festival-goers,” the EPA said in a statement.

Organizers of the festival said the aftermath of the Chemtool factory fire is not stopping them from setting up for this weekend.

The chemical lubricant manufacturing facility, at 1165 Prairie Hill Road, exploded around 7 a.m. Monday morning and fire suppression efforts have been ongoing.

A massive dark plume of smoke from the fire could be seen for several days, and debris was found in residential yards as far away as DeKalb.

The Winnebago County Health Department (WCHD) gave the event the green light to be held this weekend.

“The event organizers have been working diligently with the Emergency Operations Center to prepare for the event, so it can be held safely,” said WCHD director, Dr. Sandra Martell. “So, it’s outside of the [one-mile evacuation zone]. The masking recommendation has been lifted, but if you’re an individual with underlying respiratory conditions, you should continue to wear a mask.”

Old Settlers Days media spokesperson, Carol Wright said any debris from the Chemtool explosion will be cleaned up before the gates open, and say Old Settlers Days will be safe for people to attend.

“We’re several miles away from the evacuation area, so we’re in a good place. And, with the cleaner air and the smoke settling down, I think that part is behind us, and won’t effect us at all,” Wright said. “So, come on out and enjoy being with people! Enjoy some great music! Enjoy some wonderful food. Ride the rides and have a great time! Come out and support the community and support the Rockton Lions.”

Old Settlers Days says it is not issuing refunds at this time. Money raised from the event will go toward the Rockton Lions Club, which uses the funds to support local needy organizations.

Old Settlers Days runs June 17-20th, and features headlining performances from Granger Smith featuring Earl Dibbles, Jr, Jimmie Allen, Riley Green, and Gabby Barrett.

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