Illinois Chemical Plant Facing Lawsuit After Explosion Forced Evacuations

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Illinois Chemical Plant Facing Lawsuit After Explosion Forced Evacuations
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Chemtool, a chemical plant responsible for manufacturing lubricants, grease, and other fluid products, experienced several explosions in June of 2021. These explosions resulted in fire and smoke that lasted for days in Rockton, Illinois, forcing approximately 1,000 residents living in a one-mile radius to evacuate their homes for four days, and for people living as far as three miles from the facility to wear a mask for protection. 

According to the official class action complaint, the smoke plume was visible from more than 100 miles away. The cause of the explosion is unknown, but Chemtool and parent company The Lubrizol Corporation are facing a class action lawsuit from homeowners and residents who were negatively impacted by the fire and evacuation order.

To prevent chemical runoff into the Rock River, the fire was allowed to burn out on its own, resulting in days of smoke and fire.

Low levels of hydrogen cyanide were detected in the air following the explosion, and foam used to fight some of the fire contained per- and polyfluoroalkyl chemical substances, or PFAS, which have been linked to a variety of health conditions and which residents are concerned might have contaminated the groundwater. PFAS are considered “forever chemicals”, as they do not break down over time in the environment or the human body. 

While the long-term health and environmental impacts of any potential chemical contamination have yet to be assessed, residents of the area have already expressed concern over the inconvenience of leaving their homes, finding temporary shelters for their pets, and measuring the possible threat of chemical exposure to the health of themselves and their loved ones.

The official complaint already points to health issues experienced by residents as well as damage to yards and homes.

While the full extent of the damages suffered by residents in the area surrounding the destroyed Chemtool plant are still being assessed and analyzed, the official complaint has already indicated health struggles connected to the smoke as well as debris covering homes and yards in the area. The Lubrizol Corporation has expressed regret for the incident although the cause of the explosions has yet to be detected; the corporation claims they have made arrangements for removal of the fire-related debris, as well as donated to local community support services to try and aid the area in recovery.

The lawsuit alleges that Chemtool is liable for negligence, nuisance, and trespassing.

One of the primary allegations in this lawsuit is that the chemical plant was negligent in preventing the explosion from occurring. The strength of this allegation will likely be revealed as the potential cause of the explosion comes to light. The nuisance and trespassing allegations stem from the fact that smoke, debris, and potentially hazardous chemicals covered the homes and yards of area residents’ property, as well as the lost use and enjoyment of the property these homeowners and tenants experienced due to the evacuation order. The plaintiffs in this lawsuit are seeking monetary compensation for these damages, as well as injunctive relief to prevent similar explosions from occurring in the future.

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