Chemtool Fire

 
Site Contact:
Craig Thomas
On-Scene Coordinator

thomas.craig@epa.gov

Site Location:
1165 Prairie Hill Road
Rockton, IL 61072
response.epa.gov/ChemtoolFire
NRC#: 1307747

On this page:

Updates

June 24

After more than a week, the fire was extinguished yesterday at the Chemtool facility in Rockton. U.S. EPA has completed air monitoring and sampling in the area and has made most data public on the website. We will post all validated data when available. The most recent data shows no sustained exceedances for any particulates or chemicals near the site or the surrounding communities. A lingering odor may continue for some time, but air monitoring results indicate that despite the odor, the current air quality is not a health concern.

U.S. EPA also monitored the threat of discharge of oil throughout the incident. A recently constructed clay berm, interceptor trenches, and oil boom placement in the Rock River have mitigated this threat. The last clay berm that was part of this containment system was put in this afternoon.

The federal agency is no longer on-site but will continue to support Illinois EPA per request and will provided input to Illinois regarding the proper disposal of wastewater generated during the fire, as requested by the state. The wastewater is currently stored in tanks onsite and will be characterized for disposal before being shipped to an appropriate facility. All state and federal regulations for waste disposal will be followed.

Illinois EPA is the lead agency at the Chemtool facility to determine next steps. Please visit their website for more information: https://www2.illinois.gov/epa/topics/community-relations/sites/Chemtool/Pages/default.aspx.

If you are a member of the community and you still have questions regarding your home or the disposal of debris, please reach out to the Winnebago County Health Department: 815-972-7300 or email: rocktonchemfire@wchd.org or their website: https://wchd.org/fire.

June 21

The number of hot spots remaining at the site dropped from 13 on Sunday to five as of this morning. U.S. EPA continues to conduct stationary and roaming air monitoring near the fire and in nearby neighborhoods. Overnight inclement weather caused U.S. EPA to temporarily suspend air monitoring for several hours. Air monitoring is back up for daytime operations.

After the fire is extinguished, Illinois EPA and U.S. EPA will oversee the cleanup of the site. All wastewater from the site is currently stored in tanks onsite and will be characterized for disposal before being shipped to an appropriate facility. All state and federal regulations for waste disposal will be followed.

June 19

The evacuation order has been lifted but U.S. EPA continues to conduct stationary and roaming air monitoring near the fire and at the Old Settlers Day festival. Overnight neighborhood data showed exceedances of particulates during flare-ups of the fire. Festival preliminary data indicate no elevated levels of concern yesterday.

After the fire is extinguished, Illinois EPA and U.S. EPA will oversee the cleanup of the site. All wastewater from the site is currently stored in tanks onsite and will be characterized for disposal before being shipped to an appropriate facility. All state and federal regulations for waste disposal will be followed.

June 18

Due to inclement weather and lightning activity last night, U.S. EPA suspended air monitoring for several hours. Air monitoring equipment is back up for daytime operations. Overnight data showed exceedances of particulates during flare-ups of the fire.

Yesterday, U.S. EPA conducted stationary and roaming air monitoring activities in support of the Old Settlers Day festival. Preliminary results indicate no elevated levels of concern.

After the fire is extinguished, Illinois EPA and U.S. EPA will oversee the cleanup of the site. All wastewater from the site is currently stored in tanks onsite and will be characterized for disposal before being shipped to an appropriate facility. All state and federal regulations for waste disposal will be followed.

Although the evacuation order has been lifted, U.S. EPA will continue to conduct air monitoring near the fire and at the Old Settlers Day festival.

June 17

At the request of the Rockton mayor, U.S. EPA is operating an air monitoring network during the Old Settlers Day celebration this weekend. 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. Questions should be directed to the Winnebago County Health Department: 815-972-7300 or rocktonchemfire@wchd.org.

June 16

U.S. EPA continues to provide guidance and support to the Rockton Fire Department, the lead agency at the response. Data from the fixed and roaming air monitors is being evaluated and new data is posted below. Preliminary overnight sampling results show no exceedances for hydrogen cyanide. The agency deployed additional air monitors into the nearby neighborhood and continues to provide all data to the health agencies for their evacuation determination.

On June 15, U.S. Fire Pump, firefighter contractors for Chemtool, used PFAS-containing foam for roughly three hours to help suppress the fire. U.S. EPA and Illinois EPA had initially raised concerns to Chemtool on June 14 about using PFAS-containing foam and both agencies requested that the company discuss it with the unified command. On June 15, upon realizing that pumping operations were beginning before that discussion had happened, the agencies requested that the operations be halted so containment controls could be reviewed. The fire chief had not been previously informed that the foam contained PFAS. He directed that operations be stopped while the company implemented steps recommended by U.S. EPA and IEPA to contain runoff. Since then, foam which does not contain PFAS has become available onsite and that is what is being used for fire-suppression operations.

The Rockton Fire Department remains the lead agency for the response. U.S. EPA provides support and guidance, but the fire chief has the final say how to best fight the fire.

June 15

U.S. EPA is responding to the Chemtool fire in Rockton, Illinois, to provide guidance and support to the Rockton Fire Department, the lead agency at the response. As of 2 p.m. on June 15, there are four U.S. EPA responders on-site, supported by eight contractors. They have set up a network of fixed and roaming air monitors at the site and downwind. As the wind direction changes, the roaming monitors are moved to follow the plume and to provide real-time data to the responders. U.S. EPA has 12 AreaRAE Pro monitors, 15 DustTrak monitors and 8 Summa canisters available for site use. The air monitoring network looks for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), oxygen (O2), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), carbon monoxide (CO), lower explosive limit (LEL), and particulates in coordination with the Illinois Civil Support Team. U.S. EPA is currently evaluating the data received. Current data have not shown levels above Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and Illinois Department of Public Health thresholds, except for elevated hydrogen cyanide near the fenceline. This will be further evaluated.

EPA Data

Air Monitoring Data Summaries

Air Monitoring at Old Settlers Day Festival

Background

At approximately 7 a.m. on June 14, 2021, several fire departments from both Illinois and Wisconsin were called to a 6-alarm fire at the Chemtool facility in Rockton, Illinois. Chemtool is a company that makes greases, additives, and other fluids including: industrial cleaners, corrosion inhibitors, and metalworking fluids. Immediately upon arrival, the Rockton Fire Chief implemented a mandatory evacuation of a one-mile radius surrounding the facility due the presence of hazardous substances and oils within the building. At approximately 9 a.m., Illinois EPA requested assistance from U.S. EPA due to the large scale of the fire and the proximity to residential areas. 

At the request of Illinois EPA, U.S. EPA is providing air monitoring and air sampling support in response o the Chemtool fire in Rockton, Illinois. U.S. EPA will continue to update this web page.