An Illinois town has filed a lawsuit against several oil and gas companies, alleging that the town’s water, land and air have been contaminated by repeated chemical spills over the last several years.
The toxic tort lawsuit was filed on March 20, by the town of Roxana, Ill. against Shell, ConocoPhillips and the Wood River Refinery, known as WRB Refining LP. ConocoPhillips currently owns the refinery and Shell is a former owner.
Since 1988, there have been repeated toxic chemical releases of benzene and other chemicals, with some estimates claiming as much as 13.3 million pounds of pollutants have been released into the air. There are also claims of numerous groundwater contamination events as well.
Officials at ConocoPhillips indicate that the company plans to fight the lawsuit, claiming that its stewardship of the refinery has been benign, and blaming the majority of the problems on the plant’s previous owners.
Last year, a number of Roxana residents filed a groundwater contamination class action lawsuit over benzene spills from the same refinery, which allegedly lowered property values in the town of about 1,500 people. Plaintiffs alleged that Shell released at least 8,400 gallons of benzene from an underground pipeline that went from the Wood River Refinery in Roxana to a barge loading facility on the Mississippi River. The spill created a plume under the village that contaminated groundwater supplies, the lawsuit claimed. Similar leaks occurred from a BP facility in Wood River as well, according to the lawsuit.
The facilities have been cited a number of times by the EPA for violating environmental protection laws. In May 2008, Shell was cited for excessive releases of benzene and other chemicals into Roxana’s groundwater. Last summer, during a heat wave that hit the Midwest and East Coast, Illinois environmental officials sent a letter urging Roxana residents not to sleep in their basements due to the risk of benzene exposure after testing indicated there could be a danger to residents’ health.
Benzene is an industrial chemical that has been associated with the development of several fatal forms of cancer, leukemia and other conditions, such as Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML), Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML), Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL), Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL), Hairy Cell Leukemia (HCL), Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Multiple Myeloma, Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDL), Myelofibrosis and Myeloid Metaplasia, Aplastic Anemia and Thrombocytopenic Purpura.