ROCKTON — Firefighting operations remain ongoing at Chemtool in Rockton one week after authorities battled a massive fire at the plant as the investigation into the origins of the blaze remains ongoing.
Rockton Fire Chief Kirk Wilson said U.S. Fire Pump, a specialized private firefighting company based in Louisiana, remains at the scene extinguishing hot spots in the 75,000 square-foot building’s smoldering remains.
“Operations are going on as we speak. This will be a long and tedious process,” Wilson said Monday. “It’s unclear when the small spot fires will be extinguished.”
Also, a class action lawsuit has been filed in Winnebago County Circuit Court on behalf of residents who claim they suffered health problems from the smoke and their homes suffered property damage.
The fire caused a massive plume of smoke and dust that was visible from weather satellites in low-earth orbit. At the time of the initial fire response, Wilson said the fire was expected to burn for a week or more.
Once firefighting operations are complete, the Illinois EPA and U.S. EPA will lead regulatory oversight of the site’s remediation. Illinois EPA officials collected soil and wipe samples throughout the one-mile radius area. Preliminary results of initial samples indicate no detection of semi-volatile organic compounds.
Air quality testing remains ongoing and water quality of the Rock River and area groundwater are monitored by the agencies.
Teams will begin damage assessments in the one-mile radius around Chemtool on Tuesday.
Currently, all wastewater from the site is being collected and categorized for disposal, before being shipped to an appropriate facility, according to the Winnebago County Health Department.
Wilson said an investigation into the cause of the fire remained ongoing.
Questions still are being raised about the fire suppression system at the Rockton facility. Bill Snyder, vice president of operations for Lubrizol, the owner of Chemtool, said in a news conference on Thursday that there was a fire suppression system in part of the Rockton facility, but there was not a fire suppression system in other parts. However, he said it was his understanding that the plant was in compliance with all regulations and codes.
Local, state and federal authorities have declined to speculate on the cause, citing the ongoing investigation.
Residents in the area were able to return to their homes on June 18 after the one-mile evacuation order was lifted near the site.
Lubrizol, Chemtool’s parent company, has contracted Clean Harbors to provide safe debris removal. Residents can call 877-552-8942 to request this service or find out more information.
Wilson did not have any information Monday regarding the scope of debris in the Rockton area or the number of residents assisted with cleanup.