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Health, Science, Environment

Third lawsuit filed over groundwater pollution in Roxana, Ill.

(Art Chimes)
A view of the Wood River Oil Refinery in Roxana, Ill. The Village of Roxana filed suit today in relation to contamination from the refinery.

Updated at 6:20 p.m. with comments from Phillips66 and Shell Oil.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is the latest filer of a lawsuit regarding groundwater pollution from the Wood River Refinery in Roxana, Ill.

  • First, the Village of Roxana sued, alleging that benzene and other toxic chemicals have contaminated village property, including streets, ground water, and the Public Works Yard.
  • Then, individual property owners also sued with similar claims, alleging that carcinogenic chemicals, including benzene, released from the Wood River Refinery have contaminated their properties.

The suit filed by Madigan on May 18 in Madison County Circuit Court also "alleges that contaminants including oil, gasoline and hazardous wastes leaked into and permeated the groundwater at the Wood River Refinery."

Madigan also asks for the following in her suit:

  • "the statutory maximum civil penalty of $50,000 per violation and an additional $10,000 penalty for each day the violations of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act continued" and
  • "reimbursement of costs incurred by the Illinois EPA in the investigation and cleanup."

Madigan filed the suit against present and past owners and operators of the refinery, including WRB Refining LP, Shell Oil, and ConocoPhillips.
"These companies must be held accountable for the environmental and public health damage caused by this contamination,” Madigan said in a press release. “This lawsuit seeks a complete assessment and a plan to restore the quality of the groundwater and subsurface to pre-contamination conditions and to protect the people living in Roxana.”

As of May 1, ConocoPhillips spun off its co-ownership of the refinery to Phillips66 which now operates it on behalf of WRB Refining.

A spokesperson for Phillips66, Rich Johnson, says the lawsuit relates to groundwater contamination that occurred under a previous owner-operator, Shell Oil. “And so they are really responsible for remediating the impacted area,” Johnson said.

In response to a request for comment, Shell Oil sent the following in an e-mail:

"We are aware that the State of Illinois has filed a lawsuit against Shell and other parties regarding alleged violations of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act associated with the Wood River refinery, near Roxana, Illinois. Shell will review the suit and respond in due course. At this stage it would not be appropriate to comment further about the merits of the lawsuit. However, Shell has been working cooperatively with the Illinois EPA, Illinois Dept of Health and the Village of Roxana to conduct environmental assessments and address historic subsurface impacts. We are seeking to complete the work quickly, thoroughly and with minimal disruption to homeowners. For example, we recently installed a substantial soil vapor extraction (SVE) system along the east side of Roxana and near the Village Public Works Yard that draws in and eliminates soil vapors. Our primary concern is for the safety and well being of the Roxana community. Shell remains committed to carrying out its work under the direction of state regulatory agencies including the IEP and will continue to maintain open communications with regulatory agencies and homeowners and their representatives."

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