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Chicago Daily Herald, IL: Shell settles suit over tainted landfill soil

Chicago Daily Herald, IL: Shell settles suit over tainted landfill soil

Thursday 28 July 2005

By Patrick Waldron

Daily Herald Staff Writer

Shell Pipeline Co. LP has agreed to pay $155,000 worth of fines — including $50,000 to go to a Kane County recycling program — as a penalty for dumping benzene-tainted soil at Settler’s Hill landfill in Geneva.

“We are pleased that $50,000 will remain in Kane County to support electronic waste recycling,” Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said Wednesday in a statement announcing the settlement. “Additionally, the $105,000 will support environmental enforcement efforts across the state.”

Ten months ago, Madigan filed suit against Shell Oil for violating state environmental laws. Her action came six months into a still-ongoing legal fight between the Kane County Board — owners of the landfill — and the oil giant.

The soil at the center of the controversy came from a pipeline project in Kankakee County, a venture that itself has been the source of several lawsuits since a gas leak there in November 1988.

After being tested and isolated by contractors at the Kankakee County site, the 200 tons of tainted soil, that Madigan and Kane County contend the company knew was toxic, was eventually hauled to Settler’s Hill on Feb. 5, 6 and 9 of last year.

Knowledge of the hazardous material dump first surfaced when the company notified Waste Management Inc., the operator of the county-owned landfill, that an error had been made. Within weeks the situation was brought to the attention of county board members.

Following an independent environmental review, the county board decided to leave the soil in the landfill to prevent further contamination. Despite that decision, the county filed its own lawsuit seeking unspecified damages. Madigan later did the same.

Under the state settlement, Shell has agreed to pay $105,000 to the Illinois Environmental Protection Trust Fund and $50,000 to the county’s electronics recycling program.

A spokesman for Shell Oil could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The county board will formally accept the money during its August meeting, but a county board attorney said the attorney general’s settlement doesn’t eliminate Kane County’s action.

“We haven’t given up any of our claims,” attorney Ken Shepro said.

The county’s case against Shell Oil is moving through federal court and could go to trial early next year, Shepro said.

Talks about a settlement have taken place but Shepro said the company doesn’t seem to be very interested in an out-of-court resolution.

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