Rockton evacuation order lifted, residents can return to their homes

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ROCKTON, Ill. (WTVO) — Rockton health officials said residents can return to their homes Friday and the one-mile evacuation order has been lifted.

Residents are encouraged to throw away food or water that may have been exposed to smoke, soot or other harmful particles, officials said.

The Village of Rockton has advised the following for returning residents:

• Take photos to document the condition of your property for insurance claims.
• Take off your shoes so that you do not track particles into your home.
• When performing activities that may disturb ash or debris, wear respiratory protection.
• Those with respiratory conditions such as asthma, COPD, and heart disease may need to take extra precautions as exposure to ash in the air may trigger breathing issues.
• Wash off any ash that gets on your skin or in your eyes or mouth as soon as you can.

Sampling of test results of falling material dispersed into the air have continued, Winnebago County Health Director Dr. Sandra Martell said Friday.

Multiple soil, ash and water samples are being analyzed by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Dr. Martell said of the samples that have been analyzed so far, and none have indicated any chemicals of concern, she said.

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

More than 150 residents were evacuated from their homes out of fear of toxic chemicals being dispersed in the air.

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.

Rockton Fire Chief Kirk Wilson said there are still sporadic flare ups at the Chemtool facility, but said, “The fire is contained as fire suppression efforts continue. As materials are moved, there may be flare ups, but the fire is contained.”

Winnebago County Health officials said 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.”

The WCHD has set up a website for residents to get the latest information related to the fire.

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.”

A contactor, Clean Harbors, has been arranged by Lubrizol to assist the residents in removing fire-related debris from residential homes and businesses in the area.

Residents are encouraged not to touch the debris with their bare hands.

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.

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.

Residents should document the condition of their property by taking photos. These photos will be critical for insurance claims and any potential damage assessment done by the local authorities. State and local officials expect to begin on-site property damage assessments on Tuesday, June 22nd, weather depending.

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.

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