© 2023 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Illinois EPA holds public meetings in Roxana to discuss oil refinery contamination

(Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio)
Shell Oil has been testing for toxic vapors in and under homes in this Roxana neighborhood adjacent to the Wood River Refinery.

The Illinois EPA held public meetings in Roxana on Tuesday to discuss what Shell Oil is doing to address historic contamination from the Wood River Refinery.

A consultant for Shell has found high levels of cancer-causing benzene and other toxic petroleum products in Roxana’s groundwater.

Chris Cahnovsky of the Illinois EPA says toxic, potentially explosive vapors have also been detected in the soils under several homes.

“Subsurface vapors were found, high levels of hydrocarbons in the subsurface soils. And also high levels of something called lower explosive limit chemicals found underneath the basement floors,” Cahnovsky said.

The Illinois Department of Public Health has advised residents of those homes not to sleep in their basements. Shell Oil has been paying for the residents to stay in a hotel for the past several weeks.

Virginia Clark has lived near the refinery in Roxana for more than 60 years.

She says she’s worried the oil companies won’t be able to clean up all the toxic contaminants.

“I’m worried about the health issues and the number of cancer deaths that we have in our village and have had for many years. I’m worried about our property values and how it’s devalued our property. We’re getting ready to retire and move, and we’ll never be able to sell our house,” Clark said.

Chris Cahnovsky says so far, no dangerous levels of benzene or other refinery contaminants have been detected inside homes.

He says the next step will be for Shell to begin the clean up.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.