An explosion at a chemical plant in northern Illinois, USA, On June 14, it sparked a large fire and resulted in an evacuation order that lasted four days while firefighters battled the blaze.The incident occurred at a plant belonging to Chemtool Inc., a manufacturer of lubricants and fatty products, in Rockton, northwest of Chicago.
The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Research Board (CSB) said it had deployed two of its senior leaders to the scene and would engage with federal, state and local emergency services, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and others to determine conditions and circumstances, that led to the incident and identify the cause or causes avoiding similar incidents. The CSB said early assessments appeared to indicate that the incident was a fire event and not a chemical process safety event.
The facility’s 70 workers were evacuated without injury after emergency services were called to the scene around 07:00 local time.A firefighter suffered a minor injury and was taken to a local hospital for evaluation. According to local media, the plumes of smoke caused by the fire were so large that they were detected by weather radars.
The Rockton Police Department issued an alert around 8:45 a.m. warning local residents about the mandatory evacuation of homes and businesses near the Chemtool plant. The evacuation zone was expanded from a one-mile radius to two miles later in the day, as emergency services encouraged people to wear face masks to prevent smoke and soot inhalation.
Firefighters had initially planned to allow volatile substances to burn due to the facility’s proximity to the Rock River. There was great concern around the release of firefighting water and extinguishing foam into the canal. This initial approach was later re-evaluated, and emergency services began building berms and booming access to the river and extinguishing the remaining fire.
The mandatory evacuation order was lifted after four days, on June 18, when residents were able to return to their homes and businesses were able to reopen. The fire was expected to continue to burn for several more days.
Chemtool is a wholly owned subsidiary of Lubrizol Corporate which acquired the company in 2013. In 2019, a French subsidiary of Lubrizol was accused of contamination and failing to meet safety standards after an explosion and fire at its Rouen plant in northern France. The fire at the lubricants plant in September and October 2019 produced a thick black cloud for several days that spread across the region and caused nausea, headaches and vomiting among locals.