Weather could force additional mitigation in Rockton, officials say – NBC Chicago
While officials say ground-level air quality conditions are still safe amid an ongoing fire at a Rockton chemical plant, there are fears overnight weather conditions will force a take additional mitigation measures, including shelter-in-place guidelines.
On Monday evening, residents within a mile of the Chemtool lubricants manufacturing plant were ordered to evacuate their homes over concerns about airborne particles and other chemicals that were hurled skyward by the fire.
According to John Kim, director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, additional measures may be needed as the air cools Monday night due to a weather phenomenon known as a “temperature inversion.”
“When you have cooler temperatures at night, it’s going to reduce some of that (airborne smoke) through what we call a temperature inversion,” he said. “You may have a situation where at night, depending on the temperature, it may be necessary to put in place additional measures, for example, possibly a shelter in place (order), that sort of thing. “
So-called “temperature inversions” occur when warmer air acts like a “hat” and traps cooler air below, causing the trapping of airborne particles, such as those found in the air. a massive fire, near the surface of the Earth.
The blaze has put smoke into the air throughout the morning and afternoon, but surface air quality has remained clean so far, officials said. Some fear that the inversion will push the smoke closer to the ground, which could impact air quality.
The wind may be helping to dispel at least some of the smoke, but action is still underway, officials say.
“The direction and speed of the wind is going to give us an idea of (if) this plume will travel, how far it will go and how much it will dissipate,” he said.
Residents who live within three miles of the plant have previously been advised to wear masks to protect themselves from airborne particles.
Kim says the Illinois EPA, working with state and federal authorities, is installing a series of air quality monitors in the area to monitor air quality levels.
Firefighters also cut back on their use of water to fight the blaze, with officials raising concerns that the chemical runoff could impact the nearby Rock River.
As a result, the fire could continue to burn for several days, officials said.