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Officials say air and water quality unaffected from Chemtool fire

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Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco
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Chemtool Update Press Conference at the Rockton Village hall.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency reported in a press conference on Tuesday evening that there is currently no evidence that air or water quality was adversely affected by the weeks-long fire at the Rockton Chemtool facility.

Illinois EPA Director John J. Kim said that the agency conducted extensive testing around the Rock River and local water supplies.

The sampling has indicated some isolated instances of contamination. But overall, no evidence was recorded of any kind of sustained violations or any sustained non-compliance.

State and local health officials confirmed that there is no indication that the fire compromised the community water supply or its source for finished water at this time.

Winnebago State’s Attorney J. Hanley says that his office will be joining in litigation with the Illinois State’s Attorney’s office against Chemtool on behalf of the people of Winnebago County.

Hanley said he has two goals when it comes to litigation.

“The first is evaluation. So evaluating the extent of the contamination, what happened, what will be the long and short term effect, and we're looking at Chemtool to provide those answers,” Hanley said. “Secondly, it's remediation. And that's just fixing or limiting the damage, the cleanup plan. And it's not just right now, it's also in the future.“

Dr. Sandra Martell with the Winnebago County Health Department announced that to date, 1,900 surveys tracking health outcomes for individuals affected by the fire have been collected by the agency.

Martell said that the survey showed that 5 percent of respondents received some sort of health care either from Telehealth, clinics, outpatient and urgent care or the emergency department. Less than one-half percent indicated that they needed more intensive care in a hospital.

The health impact survey closes for submissions this Thursday.

Rockton Mayor John Peterson said there are still unanswered questions. Peterson wants to know, “What exactly was in the Chemtool building? What are the long-term effects of the fire? How are people with wells affected? And what's the cleanup gonna look like?”

Peterson said that he’s been trying to organize a town hall meeting for the past several weeks, but has been unsuccessful.

“I’m going to keep on trying, and eventually, hopefully we get that taken care of,” said Peterson.