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Village of Rockton begins clean-up efforts after Chemtool fire scatters ash and debris

Published: Jun. 15, 2021 at 6:21 PM CDT
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ROCKTON, Ill. (WIFR) - People living in the Rockton area pick up ash and debris in their yards and local parks.

Efforts started Tuesday morning with street sweepers making their way through town. Local volunteers are also putting on gloves and picking up pieces by hand. Jake Johnson and his fellow employees in the Rockton Public Works Department are on a mission to get rid of ash and debris lining the streets of the village. It could be days, even weeks, before it’s all gone.

“It can be toxic I believe, you know if it gets on your skin or anything like that,” Johnson said. “I’m thinking just best to get it cleaned up, out of the way and just keep people out of that risk.”

Rockton parks and Recreation employee Nathan Hollinger says residents love to spend time at the community pool. He says it’s crucial the ash and debris are cleaned up in order for families to safely return for a fun summer.

“I’m walking around here with gloves on and using pickers to pick it up,” Hollinger said. “If a kid was out here for day care or something like that I could easily see them coming over here and picking it up out of curiosity. So it’s definitely important to get out of here as soon as possible.”

Hollinger says it’s especially important to get things cleaned up because the village pool offers day care to kids in the area. However, he says it’s going to take time.

“It’s probably going to be a couple of days job, at least a couple of hours at like this park alone and then the other ones too so yeah it’ll definitely be a couple of days,” Hollinger said.

Dan Enderle spent time outside picking up large pieces that landed in his front yard and garden. He says his biggest concern is staying safe.

“We want to make sure that any potential, you know, all the different contaminants that were from the Chemtool plant won’t be affecting our soil or drinking water,” Enderle said. “I’m really thankful that they’re trying to make efforts to mitigate all the potential ecological problems that could happen.”

While Enderle wants to help cleaning up the community, he isn’t sure exactly what is safe and what is not.

“We’re just kind of waiting to see what happens and hoping that we get some more direction on what we should do and maybe some assistance from the area for whether it’s on the roof or in all our back yards and gardens on what we’re supposed to do,” Enderle said.

It could take the village days before all of the remains are picked up. The Rockton Public Works Department hopes to have everything gone by the start of the Old Settlers Day festival on Thursday.

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