Rockton Chemical Plant

Illinois EPA Says Firefighting Foam Used in Rockton May Have Contained ‘Chemicals of Concern'

Crews have since switched to a different foam, and water testing is being performed on both the nearby Rock River and nearby groundwater supplies

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The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency says that a firefighting foam used as crews battled a fire at the Chemtool lubricant manufacturing facility in Rockton may have contained “chemicals of concern,” and that crews have now switched to a different chemical to fight the blaze.

Officials say that there is no indication that the “fluorinated foam” has impacted the nearby Rock River, but crews are working to conduct water quality testing of the river and area groundwater.

“Visual inspections do not indicate any impacts to Rock River at this time,” the EPA said in a statement. “Rock River does not serve as a drinking water source for Rockton and surrounding communities, and IEPA is conducting additional testing of the community water supply to ensure there was no contamination from the fire.”

Officials had collected samples from the river, located just 500 yards to the west of the facility, prior to the use of the foam. Additional samples are being collected this week to determine whether they have broken through containment measures.

Those measures, including booms on the river and trenches dug near the site, were implemented as firefighters began to put water and chemical foam on the blaze Tuesday. Originally, firefighters were not putting water and foam on the fire for fear of chemicals from the plant running off into the waterways, but after precautions were taken, firefighters began to more aggressively battle the blaze.

The Illinois EPA says that the foam contained a compound known as “Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)” as an unintended byproduct. The chemicals are manufactured for their oil and water-resistant properties.

Officials are testing groundwater supplies for chemicals, but emphasized that the nearest groundwater well, which supplies Rockton with drinking water, is located more than a mile from the plant.

Additional testing will continue, according to the EPA.

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