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Lawsuits & Litigation

Rockton Residents Sue Chemtool Over Massive June 14 Chemical Fire

— June 22, 2021

Residents of Rockton, Wisconsin are suing Chemtool after a massive chemical fire broke out at the plant earlier this month.

A class-action lawsuit was recently filed against the owners of the Chemtool plant near Rockford after residents were forced to evacuate their property near the large chemical fire that burned for days earlier this month. The incident happened back on June 14 and resulted in black smoke spewing over an “area so large it was visible on weather radar, prompting orders that residents and businesses within a mile vacate their properties during a protracted battle to bring the chemical fire under control.

Gavel; image courtesy of bloomsberries, via Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0, no changes made.

The suit itself was filed in Winnebago County Circuit Court by Stephanie Mackey and Nick Migliore, two of the residents that were forced to flee. Residents of 150 other homes were also forced to flee. The suit states:

“As a result of the explosion and fire, Rockton residents and others have experienced nuisance-level discomforts (respiratory difficulty, malodorous smell), their properties were covered with debris, and they generally have been impeded from using and enjoying their property, including their outdoor spaces.” 

The Chemtool plant is responsible for making lubricating greases and hires a lot of people in Rockton. Rockton is a small town with roughly 7,500 residents. It’s located between Beloit and Rockford, near the Wisconsin state line. Chemtool itself was acquired by Lubrizol in 2013.

When commenting on the incident, Lubrizol spokeswoman Alicia Gauer said. “We are devastated by this event and deeply regret the disruption and inconvenience that it has caused area residents.” She added that the company is working on a remediation plan, but the plant is expected to be a total loss. At the moment, the company has “has arranged for the removal of fire-related debris, posted reimbursement claim forms on its website for fire damages, and while testing has so far shown ‘no impact to water systems,’ is offering bottled water for residents with private wells in the evacuation area.”

Lubrizol also issued a statement that downplayed potential health risks that may arise due to the “nearly weeklong burn-off at the chemical plant, which was destroyed.” The company said:

“We are confident that the materials burned in the fire pose no health risk in the short or long-term, other than the short-term irritation one would normally experience in the presence of smoke.”

The suit argues that both Chemtool and Lubrizol were negligent in “failing to prevent the fire, caused a nuisance and trespassed on nearby properties by contaminating them with debris.” As a result, it is seeking monetary damages “for the lost use or enjoyment of the homeowners’ properties,” along with an injunction that would require Chemtool and Lubrizol to remediate the damage.

Edward Manzke, a Naperville attorney representing Mackey and Migliore, chimed in and noted the suit isn’t just about monetary compensation. He said:

“These folks deserve some answers and some information…They need to understand the full nature, extent, and duration of the threats that they have been exposed to, and whether or not they’re continuing to be exposed to those threats. Ultimately, when we get those answers, these folks need to be compensated for what they’ve been living through.”


Rockton homeowners pursue class-action lawsuit over massive chemical fire

Rockton residents file class-action lawsuit in response to chemical plant fire

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