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Rockton residents file civil suit against Chemtool and Lubrizol

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Chemtool fire 2021 3 (1)

ROCKTON (WREX) — Two Rockton residents file a civil suit against Chemtool Incorporated and the Lubrizol Corporation in response to last Monday's chemical fire, alleging negligence when it comes to preventing the fire that prompted a massive response from firefighters and environmental/health officials.

The lawsuit, filed by Meyers & Flowers, of Chicago, and Rockford-based Clark Frost Zucchi, represents Jolene Smith and Thomas Henry, both Rockton residents.

It alleges Chemtool was negligent, and potentially put the plaintiffs and other surrounding residents in danger, for failing to have a fire suppression system for the entire facility. Last week, 13 Investigates obtained an inspection report which said the facility was not properly outfitted with a fire suppression system.

In an email sent to 13 Investigates Friday afternoon, Lubrizol Senior Director of Global Communications, Alicia Gauer, says the plant did not have sprinklers in the area where the company believes the fire started, though it did have sprinklers in other areas of the site.

"We did not have sprinklers in the immediate area we believe the fire started based on our to-date investigation, though we did have sprinklers in other areas of the site," Gauer said.

The lawsuit alleges Chemtool knew it did not have an adequate fire suppression system since Lubrizol purchased the facility in 2011. The complaint outlines the potential of putting Smith and Henry, and the surrounding community at risk, after the fire potentially released chemicals into the air, soil and water. Smith and Henry said they are concerned about the safety of their toddler, who will be exposed to these chemicals, leaving them afraid to return home.

Smith and Henry are seeking at least $50,000 each, and for Chemtool to clean up and remediate the contaminates and debris, provide medical testing and monitoring, attorneys fees, and punitive damages and other such relief. Smith says the $50,000 is the minimum amount that could be used to file this kind of claim and is being used more so as a placeholder.

On Monday, a class action lawsuit was filed against Chemtool, alleging negligence in preventing the fire.

Breane Lyga

Breane Lyga is the content manager at 13 WREX. She joined the team in 2015 as the 5, 6 and 10PM news producer after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She was 13 WREX’s assignment editor from 2017 to 2018.

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