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3-mile mask recommendation around Chemtool lifted, evacuation order remains

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SOUTH BELOIT (WREX) — The 3-mile mask recommendation around the Chemtool plant fire in Rockton has been lifted after officials announced Wednesday that air quality measurements remain stable and under federal standards after 24-hour monitoring.

However, people with respiratory issues or underlying conditions within the 3-mile radius are recommended to continue to wear a mask while particulates and irritants remain in the air, including during the upcoming four-day festival, Old Settler’s Days at Settler’s Park in Rockton.

The Winnebago County Health Department announced Wednesday that residents within one mile of the plant still can’t return home as investigators are still determining what exactly is in the smoke and debris that blanketed homes for more than 48 hours so far.

Health department Administrator Dr. Sandra Martell said the reason investigators don’t know of every compound in the air and in debris, is because there are not only chemicals released from the plant, but chemicals released from burning plastics, cars, rubber, and other materials.

“We understand the turmoil and trauma this is causing our residents and businesses,” Dr. Martell said.

The EPA warns that residents in the area may still smell chemicals because of a slight increase in particulate matter, though this never exceeded federal standards. The cyanide reports are under health-based screening values.

Dr. Martell said this is not only a public health issue when it comes to the fire, but also a public health issue when it comes to the environmental impacts.

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13 WREX Newsroom

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