Rockton community reflects on one-year anniversary of Chemtool explosion

“This June 14th has been a much better June 14th than a year ago,” said Rockton Village President, John Peterson.
Published: Jun. 14, 2022 at 6:23 PM CDT
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ROCKTON, Ill. (WIFR) - One year since the Chemtool chemical plant explosion, the Rockton community looks for ways to move forward as they asses damages that are a constant reminder of the fire.

“This June 14th has been a much better June 14th than a year ago,” said Rockton Village President, John Peterson.

Just before 7 a.m. that day, one seemingly small accident set off one of the biggest explosions in the Stateline, as Chemtool went up in flames.

“There’s nothing there that they can salvage so I suspect it’ll be a complete tear down and clean up and that’s gonna take a while.” Peterson said.

The building burned for days forcing dozens to evacuate their homes. From the start residents worried about contamination to the air, water and soil. It remains on their minds today.

“So far there hasn’t been anything to alarm them but that doesn’t mean that something can’t happen down the road,” Peterson said.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency which closely monitors the area is onsite again as clean-up efforts kick into high gear. One main focus is the Rock River and keeping it clean.

“We were fishing here during when that happened and when they put the barrier up and we’ve actually never caught fish since,” said Ken Hopkins who fishes on the Rock River every week.

Ken Hopkins and his friends enjoy fishing on the Rock River, just down stream of Chemtool. Hopkins admits he doesn’t know why the fish stopped biting, the IEPA says no chemicals leaked into the river.

“We just have a beautiful spot here along the river and people should come and enjoy it. We don’t know if the chemicals have done anything or not but it’s a beautiful place. Maybe the fish will start biting,” Hopkins said.

Peterson says clean up efforts are scheduled to begin soon. Chemtool and the IEPA will head the operation making sure the ash and debris stay out of the air and people’s yard.

23 News did reach out to Chemtool and its parent company, Lubrizol but we’ve not received a response.

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