4 News Now Desk: Illinois chemical plant fire raises new concerns over water contamination

ROCKTON, Ill. — A dangerous fire at a chemical plant in northern Illinois has prompted new concerns over water contamination.

It is not clear what started the fire early Monday at the Chemtool plant near Rockton. The entire building was engulfed with thick black smoke pouring into the air, which could be seen from 40 miles away. The fire later set off more explosions and sent the smoke even higher.

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Fire officials were initially concerned the smoke could be toxic, but Tuesday, their major concern turned to possible contamination of a nearby river. That forced firefighters to limit their water use. Instead, officials will allow the chemicals to burn off.

“We’re thinking that this is going to be a several-day event to have all this product burned off,” Rockton Fire Protection District Chief Kirk Wilson said. “And that’s the best thing that we can do right now.”

More than 1,000 people living within a mile of the plant were evacuated because of air-quality concerns. As of Tuesday morning. officials reported the air was safe, but the evacuation order remained in place as a precaution.

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