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Local biologist translates Illinois EPA reports around Chemtool fire

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ROCKTON (WREX) -- Almost immediately after the Chemtool fire on Monday June 14, the Illinois EPA and other agencies started monitoring the air, water and soil around the fire.

The EPA published its findings in a rather difficult set of reports to read, if you're not a biologist. Though, the EPA says the air quality around the plant is safe.

A biologist with Syverson Dells broke the information down into terms that the average person can understand, and published her findings in a blog post on the Syverson Dells website.

"With so much information flying around the news and social media, I wanted to take some time to dissect the EPA reports that have been released so far," Jillian Neece wrote. "I know scientific reports like these are inaccessible and overwhelming to many, if not most people, so I want to use my training as a biologist to help translate the tables, numbers, and maps into language that we can all digest."

The blog post breaks down what the EPA found in the air quality tests and where those tests were taken. In all, particulate matter was found above safety levels virtually every day between June 14 and June 23.

Particulate Matter is a combination of solid particles and liquid droplets that can cause health and environmental problems, including heart and lung issues. Plus, it makes the air hazy and could form acid rain, per Neece's blog post. Other levels of Hydrogen Cyanide, Hydrogen Sulfide, Volatile Organic Compounds and more were found.

"I wanted to use my background in biology to basically help people understand what we're facing, because the data was out there already," Neece said. "All I had to do is translate it into something that more people could understand."

The EPA is waiting for soil and water samples.

The Chemtool plant housed chemicals used to make different lubricants and grease.

Records obtained by 13 WREX show the plant holds Zinc, Sulfuric Acid, Nitrogen, Lead, Ethylene Glycol (antifreeze, as Tate-Nadeau said), and Diphenylmethane Diisocyanate.

The plant participates in the "Tier II" reporting system, and must report the chemicals it uses in an annual federal report, which is used by state and federal authorities to track and enforce rules related to how plants store materials.

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James Stratton

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