The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently conducted a door-to-door survey of Northern Illinois residents about last month’s Beach Park chemical spill. Testing to determine the environmental impact of the spill remains ongoing.
Survey Examines Emergency Response, Health Outcomes
The CDC conducted the door-to-survey over Mother’s Day weekend. On May 11, canvassers for the federal health protection agency began interviewing residents at homes within a one-mile radius of the Beach Park chemical spill, about forty miles north of downtown Chicago. The CDC designed the survey to:
- Better describe the Beach Park chemical spill;
- Evaluate the emergency response and environmental testing conducted by local, state, and federal agencies; and
- Study exposure history and clinical outcomes of affected individuals through interviews and medical chart reviews.
Lake County Health Department officials encouraged area residents to participate in the survey in order to assist the CDC in its analysis and to help prevent and guide response to similar incidents in the future. CDC workers also planned to interview first responders and the more than three dozen people who were hospitalized following the Beach Park chemical spill, which took place on April 25.
At approximately 4:25 a.m. on that date, police officers were called to North Green Bay Road and 29th Street in Beach Park in response to a possible vehicle fire. At the scene, the responding sergeant and deputy were reportedly “overcome by an airborne chemical.”
Later investigation revealed that a truck from Pleasant Prairie, WI had been towing containers of anhydrous ammonia to an Illinois farm when it began leaking the chemical. This leak released “toxic plumes” of the colorless, deadly gas into the air, affecting residents of Beach Park, Wadsworth, and Zion, as well as people traveling through the area.
At least 37 people were taken to local hospitals following the Beach Park chemical spill, including eleven firefighters, the sergeant, the deputy, and a Zion police officer. Seven of them were listed in critical condition.
Residents within a one-mile radius of the Beach Park chemical spill were put under a “shelter-in-place” order to stay indoors with their windows closed and their air conditioning and heaters turned off. At least five area schools were also closed that day. The shelter-in-place order was lifted at 10:00 a.m. following an air quality check by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
Environment Testing Remains Ongoing
The scale of the follow-up response to the Beach Park chemical spill reflects the serious health risks posed by exposure to anhydrous ammonia. Inhaling anhydrous ammonia may result in:
- Irritation of the mucous membranes, including the eyes, nose, mouth, and throat.
- Severe trachea bronchitis.
- Permanent damage to the lungs and mucous membranes.
In addition to the dangers associated with the immediate inhalation of anhydrous ammonia, health officials remain concerned about the chemical’s presence in the drinking water for the Beach Park area, where residents predominately use private wells.
On April 26, the Lake County Health Department collected and analyzed samples from wells for six homes nearest to the site of the Beach Park chemical spill, as well as from sump pits in two homes. Results showed elevated levels of ammonia, and residents were advised to drink bottled water.
On April 30, the Lake County Health Department retested the wells for ammonia. Though the results were reported to be within the normal range, officials plan to resample the wells for a third assessment towards the end of May.
Beach Park Chemical Spill Attorneys
GWC Injury Lawyers is conducting an investigation for area residents who are concerned about their exposure to anhydrous ammonia because of the Beach Park chemical spill.
If you or a loved one believe you have suffered serious harm as a result of the Beach Park chemical spill, contact GWC Injury Lawyers today to schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with one of our personal injury attorneys. Call us at (312) 464-1234 or click here to chat with a representative at any time.