Health officials in Winnebago County say that an evacuation order will remain in place for at least one more night due to an ongoing fire at a Rockton chemical plant.
According to Public Health Administrator Dr. Sandra Martell, the evacuation order, which applies to residents who live within one mile of the Chemtool lubricant manufacturing, will remain in place Tuesday night and into Wednesday due to the possibility of temperature inversion causing airborne contaminants to be pushed closer to the ground.
Martell says that there are more than 30 devices deployed around the area to monitor for a myriad of chemicals, and that while numbers remained good in the overnight hours for Tuesday, the health department wants to ensure that the numbers remain steady before welcoming residents back into their homes.
“As the temperature drops and as the atmosphere layer drops, we want to see if those numbers hold overnight so we can make sure that the positive numbers we’re getting persist,” she said.
Residents living within a mile of the facility were ordered to evacuate Monday after a fire started at the plant, sending a plume of smoke pouring into the air. That plume of smoke has gotten smaller on Tuesday, as firefighters continue to put water and foam on the fire to beat back the flames.
Martell says that she sympathizes with residents who have been forced to evacuate, but emphasized that the decision to keep the evacuation order in place is being done with the safety of the public in mind.
“We recognize that it’s a difficult time for the families displaced, and we recognize it’s disruptive for many of our businesses to deal with this,” she said. “We will continue to monitor the situation.”
Residents who live within three miles are being advised to wear masks to help protect themselves against airborne particulates, according to officials.