CSB Investigates Illinois Chemical Factory Explosion

Posted on 6/22/2021 by Lauren Scott

[UPDATE 06/22/21] CSB deployed two members of its leadership team to the explosion site on June 21. At the site, they met with company respresentatives, on-site Federal and local emergency responders, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) staff, and Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) investigators to discuss the incident further.

On June 15, US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) issued an initial statement of its findings from a June 14 chemical factory explosion and fire in Rockton, IL. At 7:15 a.m. local time, massive flames erupted out of the lubricant manufacturing facility, causing plumes of black smoke and debris to erupt towards the sky.

All 70 facility workers were evacuated without injury. However, one firefighter sustained minor injuries when responding to the incident. Later that morning, evacuations were expanded to businesses and homes within a two-mile radius of the facility.

The fire posed a uniquely complicated threat to emergency personnel because of the facility’s proximity to a major water source. CSB has urged firefighters not to use water and fire retardant foams that could pose a significant environmental threat to Rock River, adjacent to the facility. The current plan is to berm and boom the access to the river and extinguish the remaining blaze, according to the Agency.

CSB’s initial findings suggest that the incident was unlikely to be related to the facility’s chemical processes. The Agency is conducting air quality tests throughout the area, which have stayed within safe levels thus far. Public health officials are recommending local workers and citizens wear masks as a precaution.

The Agency plans to dispatch a team of investigators as early as next week to collaborate with Federal, State, and local officials and interview facility employees.


What is the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board?

CSB's role is to investigate serious chemical accidents, identify their root causes, and recommend measures to prevent similar incidents in the future. While the Board can make recommendations to governing agencies like OSHA and US EPA, it does not have rulemaking, inspection, or enforcement powers. Created in 1990 as part of a bill to amend the Clean Air Act, the CSB reports directly to Congress and the President of the US.

Tags: Chemical safety, chemicals, CSB, environmental, environmental hazard, explosion

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