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Two Rockton residents file civil suit after Chemtool fire scatters ash and debris

Two residents claim health and safety concerns were the driving factor in filing the lawsuit.
Published: Jun. 22, 2021 at 6:14 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Over a week has passed since the Chemtool fire and residents are taking action to protect their property and health. Getting the village of Rockton cleaned up and finding out what exactly caused the fire are some of the biggest concerns residents and leaders in the area are currently dealing with.

“Quite simply, we don’t know what’s out there,” Jim Webster Winnebago County Board member said.

So many questions remain when it comes to the cause of the fire and the dangers it poses on the environment and community. With the initial seven day emergency response proclamation expiring, the Winnebago County Board extends it to 60 days.

“It triggers all the help that we can get from the state and the feds and so right away that opened the floodgates so to speak,” Webster said. “To have the EPA and IEPA and fire, everyone of the authorities from the state level or the federal level can come and help us out here.”

Two class action lawsuits have been filed against Chemtool. Chicago-area lawyer Peter Flowers also filed a civil suit on behalf of two Rockton residents for at least $50,000 each, claiming safety concerns with their young child.

“The potential of people having medical conditions in the future,” Flowers said. “Potentially even the property values diminishing. Those are three of many legal damages that people are entitled to, as a result of, as Kevin points out, nothing they did themselves, the conduct of someone else.”

County board members believe extending the proclamation will allow state and federal agencies to come to Rockton making for a fair investigation.

“Getting the straight truth, from unbiased sources on this, and so people that want to go off and accuse the company from hiding things, they won’t be able to hide things,” Webster said. “We have this in place there from that disaster declaration.”

Webster and Flowers say the timeline of this is not black and white, some residents could be dealing with this disaster for years. Many things are still up in the air for the village of Rockton. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board will keep surveying the area and collecting data for the investigation.

If you have any questions regarding the Chemtool fire you can call the hotline they have set up at (815) 972-7300 or you can send an email to rocktonchemfire@wchd.org

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