Groundwater Contamination Class Action Lawsuit Filed Over Benzene Spill

Residents of Roxana, Illinois have filed a toxic tort lawsuit against Shell Oil Company and BP Products North America over chemical spills that they say have lowered property values and exposed residents to the side effects of benzene exposure. 

The groundwater contamination class action lawsuit was filed earlier this month in Madison County Circuit Court by six plaintiffs from an Illinois town of about 1,500 people.

The complaint names Shell, BP and several “John Doe” defendants as being responsible for groundwater contamination that lowered property values in Roxana.

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Plaintiffs allege 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 claims. 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 month, 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.

The lawsuit claims that the spills and groundwater contamination have damaged the property value of homeowners in Roxana, who may be hard-pressed to sell their homes if people know they are living on top of a contaminated groundwater supply that may expose them to benzene health risks and other chemicals, including Hexane, Toulene and Xylene.

Illinois environmental officials have come down hard on Shell in the past because it has attempted to downplay the health effects of its chemical spills in communications to its employees and local residents on a number of occasions, the lawsuit claims. Shell posted a report on its Roxana Investigation Website that told residents there was no risk from soil vapors containing benzene and other chemicals.

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.

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