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Chemtool is the owner of a grease, lubricating oil, and fluids manufacturing plant at 1165 Prairie Hill Road, Rockton (Winnebago County).

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On June 14, 2021, a fire at the facility resulted in heavy, black smoke that could be observed several miles away from the site. Due to concerns for health impacts, an evacuation order was issued by the local fire department for businesses and residents within a one-mile radius of the facility. Personnel from multiple federal, state, and local agencies and organizations responded to this emergency. Governor Pritzker also activated the State Emergency Operations Center to respond to the incident. U.S. EPA  established area air monitors to monitor for volatile organic compounds, sulfur dioxide, and lead.

The Winnebago County Health Department has established a website with answers to clean-up and public health questions. The site also includes a hotline
(815-97-7300) to call for information and other contact information. 


Enforcement

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has referred an enforcement action to the Illinois Attorney General’s office. The referral cites violations of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act and Illinois Pollution Control Board Regulations related to the chemical fire and release of pollutants to the atmosphere. Additional violations may be added as information is available regarding the fire. The referral asks the Attorney General to pursue legal action and require Chemtool to immediately stop the release, provide documentation to the Illinois EPA including the cause of the fire, 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. The company will be asked to develop and implement a work plan to remove any hazardous material from the site and address other compliance issues related to the incident. The company will also be asked to establish additional procedures to prevent the reoccurrence of future events.


Firefighting Foam

The Illinois EPA conducted water quality testing of the Rock River and area groundwater following the Chemtool fire in Rockton. Illinois EPA collected water samples from the Rock River on June 15. Samples were collected for BOD5 Biochemical Oxygen Demand, Total Suspended Solids, nutrients, metals, volatile organic compounds, and semi-volatile organic compounds. Illinois EPA also conducted testing of the Rockton community water supply to ensure there was no contamination from the fire. The Rock River does not serve as a drinking water source for Rockton or surrounding communities.

On June 15, Illinois EPA learned a Chemtool contractor used a fluorinated firefighting foam to assist in putting out the fire that may contain chemicals of concern. The company switched to using non-fluorinated foam after the Illinois EPA addressed the issue with them.

The Chemtool/Lubrizol contractor US Fire Pump confirmed the foam used was Signature Series 1x3% C6AR-AFFF. 
The foam is a fluorinated surfactant and may contain Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) as an unintended by-product, and the foam can break down into Perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA) and potentially others. 

PFOA and PFHxA are chemicals in the Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) family, a group of approximately 5,000 human-made chemicals that are manufactured for their oil and water-resistant properties. Because PFAS are mobile in soil and groundwater, Illinois EPA took additional precautions to protect the Rock River and area groundwater.

US Fire Pump used 3,200 gallons of C6AR-AFFF mixed with 71,000 gallons of water. The company has since switched to using Signature non-fluorinated vapor suppression foam. An estimate of how much non-fluorinated product was used is not available at this time.

Contractors for the company constructed trenches on the southern and western sides of the property to contain water/foam from fire-fighting efforts. Vacuum trucks have also been on-scene to remove fire water runoff from trenches and on the property. Soil sampling of the trenches have been done and additional sampling is anticipated. Absorbent boom, used to stop and prevent any spill from traveling further, were also deployed by Illinois EPA to further protect the Rock River prior to the use of the foam. 

A breach of foam from firefighting equipment was observed on the Rock River on June 17. A response crew immediately mobilized to mitigate the breach. Booms were placed to contain the foam. U.S. EPA's On-Scene Coordinator was at the foam location and believes the booms placed around the foam were successful. The contractor evacuated the foam under U.S. EPA guidance. Illinois EPA collected additional samples for PFOA and PFHxA on June 17 to identify any contaminants that may have broken through containment, and additional samples were taken from the area with no contaminants detected.


Data

Illinois EPA and National Guard have taken a variety of samples including ash, wipe, runoff, and river samples around the site and in the immediate area. Sampling information will be updated in this section as it becomes available. 

Illinois EPA Sampling

Wipe Samples

Wipe samples were tested for metal compounds – One wipe sample at a location close to the Chemtool property had one metal compound result, chromium, above the residential exposure limit.

Public Water Supply Samples

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Agency) personnel conducted sampling at various locations in the Rockton community water supply in response to the Chemtool, Inc. fire. Specifically, sampling was conducted to determine whether potable water quality impacts resulted from the Chemtool incident. Sampling was conducted from each well used as source water by the Rockton community water supply and the finished water storage tank located adjacent to the Chemtool fire. 

Samples were analyzed for Inorganic compounds (IOCs), Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), Semi-Volatile Organic Compounds (SVOCs), and Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS).

The results (June 18 and June 19) from samples taken on June 18th and June 19th from the Well #5 (WL11665), Well #6 (WL11666), Well #7 (WL00796), Well #9 (WL01784), Well #10 (WL01981) and the finished water storage tank (Prairie Street Tower), are in compliance with applicable drinking water and groundwater standards. The Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) sample results were below Agency Health Advisory levels.

Wastewater Runoff and Rock River Samples

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Agency) personnel conducted sampling at various locations in response to the incident at the Chemtool, Inc. facility. Specifically, sampling was conducted to determine whether runoff from the incident resulted in water quality impacts to the Rock River. Sampling was conducted in the Rock River, both upstream and downstream of the Chemtool facility, as well as at the Village of Rockton Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) and onsite at the Chemtool facility. 

Samples were analyzed for biological oxygen demand (BOD), total suspended solids (TSS), metals, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), Semi-Volatile Organic Compounds (SVOCs), nutrients, dissolved oxygen, pH, and Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS). 

The Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB) sets water quality standards at levels that are protective of human health and aquatic life in Illinois waters.

On June 15, 2021, water samples were collected in the Rock River, both upstream and downstream of the Chemtool facility. Results from all water samples collected on June 15, 2021, are in compliance with the IPCB’s water quality standards.

On June 16, 2021, water samples were collected in the Rock River, downstream of the Chemtool facility, at the Village of Rockton STP, and from a frac tank at the Chemtool facility. Results from all water samples collected on June 15, 2021, are in compliance with the IPCB’s water quality standards, except for:

  • The sample collected at the Village of Rockton STP contained ammonia, copper and zinc at levels exceeding the IPCB’s water quality standards, and total suspended solids that exceeded the IPCB’s effluent standard.
  • The sample collected from a frac tank at the Chemtool facility, which was not released into the environment, contained elevated levels of cadmium, phenols, zinc, and silver.

On June 17, 2021, water samples were collected in the Rock River, downstream of the Chemtool facility, at the Village of Rockton STP, from an interceptor trench at the Chemtool facility, and from runoff at the Chemtool facility.

  • The sample collected at the Village of Rockton STP contained zinc at levels exceeding the IPCB’s water quality standards.

The sample collected in the Rock River, downstream of the Chemtool facility, had a pH outside of the range allowable by the IPCB’s water quality standards of 6.5 – 9.0 standard units.

On June 18, 2021, water samples were collected in the Rock River, downstream of the Chemtool facility, and in sanitary sewer manholes, both upstream and downstream of the plugged sewer line at the Chemtool facility. Results from all water samples collected on June 18, 2021, are in compliance with the IPCB’s water quality standards, except for:

  • The sample collected in the sanitary sewer manhole, upstream of the plugged sewer line at the Chemtool facility, contained boron, copper, zinc and pH at levels exceeding the IPCB’s water quality standards, and BOD5 that exceeded the IPCB effluent standard.
  • The sample collected in the sanitary sewer manhole, downstream of the plugged sewer line at the Chemtool facility, contained bis (2-ethylhexyl) phythalate, copper, zinc and ammonia at levels exceeding the IPCB’s water quality standards, and BOD5 that exceeded the IPCB effluent standard.

One June 19, 2021, water samples were collected in the Rock River, downstream of the Chemtool facility, and from runoff at the Chemtool facility. Results from all water samples collected on June 19, 2021, are in compliance with the IPCB’s water quality standards, except for:

  • The sample collected in the Rock River, downstream of the Chemtool facility, contained levels of carbon disulfide exceeding the IPCB’s water quality standard.
  • A sample of runoff from the Chemtool facility contained levels of carbon disulfide, phenols and ammonia exceeding the IPCB’s water quality standards, and BOD5 and oil and grease that exceeded the IPCB’s effluent standards.

PFAS Samples

On June 17 and 18, 2021, wastewatersamples were collected and analyzed for the presence of PFAS in the Rock River, both upstream and downstream of the Chemtool facility, at the Village of Rockton STP, at various locations on the Chemtool facility, and at a location downstream of where firefighting foam had back flowed into the Rock River. No results from PFAS samples collected on June 17th and 18th were detected above Agency Health Advisory levels, except for the June 17th sample collected at a location downstream of where firefighting foam had back flowed into the Rock River. At this location, the PFAS analytes known as PFOA and PFOS were detected at or above Agency Health Advisory levels.

On June 19, 2021, watersamples were collected and analyzed for the presence of PFAS in the Rock River, both upstream and downstream of the Chemtool facility, and at a location downstream of where firefighting foam had back flowed into the Rock River. No results from PFAS samples collected on June 19th were detected above Agency Health Advisory levels, except for the sample collected at a location in the Rock River, upstream of the Chemtool facility. At this location, the PFAS analyte known as PFOA was detected above the Agency Health Advisory level.

Groundwater Monitoring Well Sampling

Following the fire at the Chemtool facility, Illinois EPA collected samples from groundwater monitoring wells located at the former Beloit Corporation Superfund site on June 25, 30 and July 14. Illinois EPA has confirmed the presence of elevated metals, including antimony, cadmium, chromium, and nickel, in some of the groundwater monitoring wells. Groundwater monitoring wells do not serve as drinking water sources for the public. There were no metals found in the municipal water supply for the Village of Rockton, which was tested on June 21. As a result of elevated metals in the monitoring wells, initial private well sampling is being conducted near the monitoring wells to determine if any private drinking water wells have been impacted. As a precaution and at the direction of IDPH and WCHD,  residents with private wells that live in the Blackhawk neighborhood adjacent to the Chemtool property are recommended to NOT use their private well water for drinking or cooking. Once results from the initial sampling of private wells are finalized, Illinois EPA, IDPH and WCHD will determine next steps if any additional sampling is needed. Below are the sample results from the Groundwater Monitoring Wells.  Also see related news release.

Groundwater Monitoring Well Sampling (21F1057): 06/25/2021
Groundwater Monitoring Well Sampling (21F1058): 06/25/2021
Groundwater Monitoring Well Sampling (21F1059): 06/25/2021
Groundwater Monitoring Well Sampling (21F1060): 06/25/2021
Groundwater Monitoring Well Sampling (21G0031): 06/30/2021
Groundwater Monitoring Well Sampling (21G0500): 07/14/2021
Groundwater Monitoring Well Sampling (21G0532): 07/14/2021
Groundwater Monitoring Well Sampling (21G0535): 07/14/2021

Sample Locations

Illinois EPA Water Sample Collection Locations:  06/15/2021
Illinois EPA Water Sample Collection Locations:  06/16/2021
Illinois EPA Wipe and Soil Sample Collection Locations:  06/17/2021
Illinois EPA Water and Land Sample Collection Locations Thru 06/19/21
Illinois EPA Water and Land Sample Collection Locations Thru 06/21/21

National Guard Sampling

The National Guard took wipe, water and ash samples. Illinois EPA's lab analyzed the wipe and water samples for semi-volatile organic compounds and the ash samples for metals. 

Wipe and water samples tested for semi-volatile organic compounds - all samples were non-detect

Ash samples tested for metal compounds – all samples were non-detect or below threshold levels

U.S. EPA Air Sampling

U.S. EPA began collecting air samples around the incident on June 14. Current data indicates no violations of national ambient air quality standards and no significant concerns at the ground level. A webpage for response at Chemtool, Inc. has been established by U.S. EPA at https://response.epa.gov/site/site_profile.aspx?site_id=15241

Air Monitoring Data Summaries

Air Monitoring at Old Settlers Day Festival


Documents and Links

Winnebago County Health Department Incident page

U.S. EPA Chemtool page

Beloit Corporation Superfund Site

News release - Illinois EPA Referral to the Attorney General's Office

Fact Sheet - Returning Home After a Chemical Fire

News release - Important Information for Residents Returning Home Following Chemtool Evacuation

News Release - Illinois EPA Sampling Detects Elevated Metals in Groundwater Monitoring Wells at Former Beloit Corporation Superfund Site in Rockton 


Contacts

Residents and business inquiries:  Brad.Frost@illinois.gov

Media inquiries:  Kim.Biggs@illinois.gov