NATIONAL NEWS

Feds Inspected Illinois Chemical Plant Weeks Before Blast

Jun 15, 2021, 10:04 AM

Firefighters from Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin battle an industrial fire at Chemtool In...

Firefighters from Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin battle an industrial fire at Chemtool Inc. on June 14, 2021, in Rockton, Illinois. The chemical fire at the plant which produces lubricants, grease products and other fluids has prompted local evacuations. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

(AP) — A northern Illinois chemical plant that was rocked by an explosion and massive fires that prompted evacuations was inspected by a federal agency less than a month before the blast sent debris raining down onto nearby areas.

Inspectors from the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration on May 20 investigated a complaint at Chemtool Inc., a plant northwest of Chicago, WLS-TV reported. Fires continued to burn Tuesday following Monday’s explosion.

A summary record of that inspection does not explain what was being inspected at the Rockton-area plant that manufactures lubricants, grease products and other fluids. That record states only that the complaint involved safety and health, and the case remains open, the station reported.

OSHA officials said they have six months to complete their investigation involving the plant, and no further information will be made public until that work is finished, WLS-TV reported. There are no other outstanding cases or any violations in U.S. records pertaining to the plant.

A company spokesperson said that Chemtool has been safely operating since 2008, employing about 200 employees, and Chemtool said all employees on site “at the onset of the fire got out without anyone getting hurt.”

Chemtool has no U.S. Environmental Protection Agency violations during at least the last three years, the station reported.

Fires continued burning Tuesday at the ruins of the plant, where helicopter footage showed plumes of dark smoke still rising as fire crews directed water onto a portion of the smoldering site. Blackened and collapsed portions of the plant were visible along with fire-damaged semi-trailers.

A message seeking an update on fire crews’ efforts was left Tuesday for a spokeswoman with the Rockton Fire Department.

Fire Chief Kirk Wilson said Monday that about 70 employees were evacuated safely from the plant, and that one firefighter suffered a minor injury following the explosion. Chemtool’s parent company, Lubrizol Corp., later said there were closer to 50 employees present when the plant was evacuated.

Fire officials had ordered a mandatory evacuation of homes and businesses near the plant, but later in the day, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office expanded the evacuation zone from a 1-mile (1.6 kilometer) radius to a 2-mile (3.2-kilometer) radius from the plant “out of an abundance of caution.” Pritzker’s office also encouraged people within that zone to wear masks to prevent them from inhaling soot.

Rockton is located in Winnebago County, near the Wisconsin border, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) northwest of Chicago. Trisha Diduch, the planning and development administrator for Rockton, said Monday that she estimated that about 1,000 people were affected by the evacuation order.

A message seeking an update on the evacuations was left Tuesday for Rockton officials.

Chemtool, which touts itself as the largest manufacturer of grease in the Americas, has been in business since 1963. Its was purchased nearly eight years ago by the global chemical firm Lubrizol, owned by Berkshire Hathaway.

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event J...

Gregory Krieg, CNN

Trump will win South Carolina primary, CNN projects, as he closes in on the Republican nomination

Former President Donald Trump will win South Carolina’s Republican presidential primary, CNN projects, further tightening his grip on the nomination and leaving his last remaining major rival Nikki Haley to consider her dwindling options.

2 hours ago

A paddle boarder tows an inflatable unicorn on a temporary lake in Death Valley on Thursday, Feb. 2...

Ty O'Neil, John Locher and Stefanie Dazio

Kayakers paddle in Death Valley after rains replenish lake in one of Earth’s driest spots

Kayakers have been paddling in one of the driest places on Earth after a series of storms battered California’s Death Valley and replenished Lake Manly.

9 hours ago

(Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)...

Associated Press

Toyota recalls 280,000 pickups and SUVs because transmissions can deliver power even when in neutral

The recall is to fix a transmission problem that can let the vehicles creep forward while in neutral.

23 hours ago

The defendants are accused of stealing software used to train Apache helicopter pilots....

Haley Britzky and Sharif Paget, CNN

2 National Guardsmen killed after military helicopter crash in Mississippi

Two National Guard members died after a helicopter crashed Friday afternoon during a training flight in northeast Mississippi.

1 day ago

FILE - In this Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018 photo, containers holding frozen embryos and sperm are stored ...

Associated Press

Facing backlash over IVF ruling, Alabama lawmakers look for a fix

Lawmakers began scrambling for ways to protect Alabama in vitro fertilization services after multiple providers paused services in the wake of a state Supreme Court ruling that frozen embryos could be considered children under a state law.

1 day ago

Beguiling Joshua trees and intriguing rock formations helped draw millions of vistoris to Joshua Tr...

Forrest Brown, CNN

The most visited National Park Service sites in 2023 are …

See what Utah National Park proved to be the most popular in 2023.

1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Feds Inspected Illinois Chemical Plant Weeks Before Blast