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Residents told Shell $26 million settlement money on the way

Daily Journal (Illinois)

Residents told Shell $26 million settlement money on the way

08/22/2008, 10:00 am

By Jermaine Pigee 

[email protected]

(815) 937-3321

Kankakee attorney Joe Yurgine told more than 100 Limestone Township residents Thursday their money is coming.

Yurgine hopes that $26 million, part of a Kankakee County-record settlement residents won in a class-action lawsuit against Shell Oil Co., will be disbursed to Limestone property owners the end of this year. He made the remarks in an informational meeting held Thursday night at the First Assembly of God Church.

Shell is required to pay $46 million overall to settle the suit. The other $20 million will go toward extending water mains to property owners affected by the spill. Yurgine also expects the main extension to begin by the end of 2008.

“The $26 million is sitting in the JPMorgan Chase Bank in Chicago, but it’s frozen,” said Yurgine, who filed the original lawsuit in the case in 2001. “It’s frozen because we have to figure out who gets the money and where it’s going.”

The suit came about as a result of a gas spill that occurred after a Shell pipeline broke in 1988. The spill caused well contamination and related problems such as diminished property values. About 1,400 Limestone property owners took part in the suit, seeking compensation for damages.
Kankakee County Circuit Court Judge Gordon Lustfeldt ruled in their favor last December. Former Will County Judge Tom Ewert is serving as settlement administrator, and he will decide the amount each plaintiff will receive.

Because some people’s claims weren’t submitted correctly, its taking more time to determine how the money will be split, Yurgine said.

Yurgine also said it’s up to Shell to put in the water mains in order to get property owners connected to water supplied by Aqua Illinois Inc.

“Once you get the water main from Shell, you can connect to the households,” Yurgine said.

Yurgine added that Limestone Township will reap the benefits of the forthcoming money.

“I can’t imagine anywhere else in the country where so much wealth will come to one small area,” Yurgine said. “This will create a lot of jobs, and property values are supposed to go up once the water lines come in.”

One Limestone resident, who requested anonymity, said he filled out his claim to get his well water tested but no one came to his home to conduct the test.

“We only use the water to wash up,” he said. “We don’t mess with it. If anyone uses this water, they are crazy.”

Another Limestone resident, who also wished to remain anonymous, said her water is fine — for now.

“Our well is negative, but I don’t want to take the chance,” she said. “We use bottled water and filters. I also test my water yearly.”

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