The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has filed an enforcement action with the Illinois Attorney General’s office against Chemtool, Inc., citing violations related to the chemical plant explosion and large-scale fire at the factory this week in Rockton, Illinois.
The prosecution, which asks the state attorney general to file a lawsuit, says Chemtool violated the Illinois Environmental Protection Act and Illinois Pollution Control Board Regulations by “causing or permitting the release of pollution in the atmosphere”.
The reference cites Chemtool violations “related to chemical fire and release of pollutants into the atmosphere.” The state noted that additional violations may be added as additional information about the fire becomes available.
The Chemtool fire in Rockton saw several explosions as it consumed half a million gallons of oil and required the involvement of more than 80 separate fire departments.
O fire at Chemtool Lubricant Plant in Rockton it began just after 7 am on Monday and has spread rapidly, with hundreds of firefighters and dozens of fire companies participating in the attempt to control the blaze.
The smoke rose into the air and was visible from miles away, and although authorities say the air quality at ground level remained safe, there is still concern about bits of debris and other chemicals that may be in the air.
“The reference asks the attorney general to file legal action,” the Illinois EPA said in a statement, “and require Chemtool to immediately stop the release and provide documentation to the Illinois EPA, including the cause of the fire and a estimation of the nature and amount of any sulfuric acid mist emissions, particulate matter and other air contaminants emitted as a result of the fire. “
Residents within a three-mile radius of the site are being asked to wear masks, while residents within a radius of a mile of the site are being forced to evacuate.
Chemtool is also expected to develop and implement a plan “to remove any hazardous material from the site and address other compliance issues related to the incident. Additional procedures must be established to prevent the recurrence of future events.”
Authorities said at a news conference on Tuesday that they will likely have to wait until the fire is out before they can determine what caused the fire.
The fire continues to burn, while firefighters remain hesitant to pour water into the flames for fear of chemicals leaking into the nearby Rock River. That fire will need to be brought under control before firefighters enter a new phase of the investigation, according to Rockton Fire Chief Kirk Wilson.
“I think once we get good control and suppress the fire, we’ll go into what’s called ‘investigative mode’,” he said. “It will take some time to find out what the real cause of the fire was.”
It is not yet known how long this fire will continue. Authorities say it could take several days for the chemicals that fuel the fire to go out, and an evacuation order remains in effect for homes within a kilometer of the site.
Residents within a five-kilometer radius of the plant were asked to wear masks to help protect themselves from airborne particles, officials said.
All factory employees were safely evacuated, according to officials. Two firefighters were treated for illnesses after working to fight the fire.