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Shell Oil, BP Face Lawsuit Over Benzene Spill

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A class action lawsuit was filed on Friday against Shell Oil Company alleging the company released benzene into ground water 25 years ago and never cleaned the area. The lawsuit was filed in Illinois State Court in Madison County and also names BP Products North America, Inc. as a defendant. The complaint states that in 1986, Shell Oil Company released 8,400 gallons of pure benzene from an underground pipeline into ground water beneath an oil refinery, reported KSDK.com.

Benzene is a colorless chemical that evaporates quickly into the air. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the chemical is widely used in the U.S. and ranked in the top 20 chemicals for production volume. Benzene exposure can effect cell reproduction. For instance, exposure can cause bone marrow to stop producing red blood cells which can lead to anemia. Inhaling the toxic chemical can cause drowsiness, headaches, tremors, unconsciousness and death, says the CDC.

In 1990, plaintiff Patricia Ford purchased a house in Roxana and since has experienced health problems as a result of benzene exposure.

She told KSDK, “I kept getting one infection after the other. I’d get one respiratory infection; it would go away. Then it would come right back.”

Ford believes the toxic chemical entered her home through a drain in the basement, describing the foul smell as “raw sewage” that envelops the entire house giving her family headaches.

Last month, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency-ordered testing revealed the presence of benzene which caused officials to warn Roxana residents against sleeping in their basements.

A plaintiff attorney involved in the case stated, “Between 1986 and the last couple years Shell did absolutely nothing to try to reduce the benzene in the groundwater or to prevent it from spreading under the neighborhoods in Roxana.”

Ford is also concerned her property value will decrease because the presence of benzene. “Am I going to be able to sell my house?” she said. “I don’t think so because who’s going to want to buy a house knowing it sits on a big pool of benzene?”

The complaint also claims tests show workers in the area have an elevated frequency of leukemia.

Shell Oil Company and BP were unable to be reached for comments; however, in the past, Shell officials said investigations were performed regarding the benzene spill and testing in May was part of on-going remediation, reported KSDK.

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