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In Fire's Wake, Illinois EPA Asks State AG To Pursue Legal Action


The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has referred an enforcement action to the Illinois Attorney General's Office against the Chemtool, Inc. plant in Rockton in the wake of the Monday fire there which continues to burn.

In a release from the IEPA, the agency cites violations of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act and Illinois Pollution Control Board regulations by Chemtool for "causing or allowing the release of pollutants into the atmosphere." The IEPA says additional violations may be added as more information comes to light regarding the fire itself.

According to the release, the IEPA asked the Attorney General to pursue legal action to require Chemtool to "immediately" stop the release of the pollutants, provide documentation on the fire's cause, and "an estimate of the nature and amount of any emissions of sulfuric acid mist, particulate matter, and other air contaminants emitted as a result of the fire."

Chemtool will also be required to create and implement a plan to remove any hazardous waste on the site and address any other compliance issues related to the incident. The company must also put in place procedures to prevent something like this from happening again.

In an email to WNIJ, a representative of Chemtool said the move was "procedural and expected" and released the following statement from Chemtool in response to the IEPA's move:

"We have heard the Illinois EPA has issued a referral to the Illinois Attorney General’s office. We understand this action, and we will of course work with State and Federal regulators to address the concerns raised in the referral. This would include working to address any pollution issues as we have since this incident began and executing a site clean-up once the fire has been extinguished."

The company manufactured grease and lubricants at the facility. No one was injured in the fire which began Monday morning.

U.S. EPA has established monitoring stations for volatile organic compounds, sulfur dioxide, and lead.

Residents in a one mile radius of the site were evacuated on Monday and remain displaced.

Published reports say investigators from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Organization (OSHA) visited the plant several weeks ago as the result of a complaint. That investigation is still underway. Chemtool says the OSHA visit is not connected to the fire. It calls them "unrelated incidents."

In an update on Tuesday night carried by WREX-TV, state and federal officials says they continue to conduct 24 hour air monitoring to detect hazardous chemicals near the Chemtool fire.

Craig Thomas is federal on-scene coordinator with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

He says they recently discovered a low level of hydrogen cyanide that is exceeding a screening value right at the fence line of the property. He suspects that is the result of air inversion from Monday night. Additional testing will continue Tuesday night.