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Shell to check for benzene

The Telegraph

ROXANA – Workers are planning to check the soil and groundwater for benzene contaminants on the village’s east side in the near future.

Officials announced Monday that Shell Oil Products US would start field activities in the early spring to check for benzene, which was released from an underground pipeline 23 years ago. Benzene is a chemical component of gasoline and other petroleum hydrocarbons with the most serious potential health effects.

Roxana residents from Illinois Route 111 to Chaffer Avenue, between First and Eighth streets, started receiving letters last week telling them about the project, which is being overseen by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

“The mayor asked that (Shell) send letters to the residents in the affected area, so they would be aware of what will be going on when the work starts,” said Kevin Dyer, project manager with Shell.

Mayor Felix Floyd said he wanted a letter sent because he felt it was best to keep residents informed, and if they had questions, they would know whom to contact.

The letter states that efforts are under way to address a benzene release area and other petroleum hydrocarbons discovered during investigations since the leak first occurred in 1986. A total of 8,400 gallons of benzene leaked from an underground pipeline that was used by Wood River Refinery while it was owned and operated by Shell Oil Co.

The pipeline extended from the refinery to the barge loading facilities on the Mississippi River, along a route parallel to Rand Avenue.

Shortly after the release, a portion of the underground pipeline near the release site was abandoned in place and was replaced with an above-ground section following a similar route.

The letter stated that there was limited documentation available regarding the cleanup activities at the time of the release, other than that the liquids that accumulated at the surface were recovered to the extent possible. Other than the liquid recovery, there is nothing to indicate that the subsurface release was addressed further.

In 2005, analytical results from regular groundwater sampling monitoring wells at the refinery, now WRB Refinery LLC Wood River Refinery, indicated an increase in levels of benzene in the vicinity of the refinery’s west fence line.

“The monitoring well where a benzene increase was detected is approximately 800 feet from the release location,” the letter stated. “Shell Oil Products suspects this occurrence was related to migration of benzene in groundwater from the 1986 release location due to groundwater pumping at the refinery.”

The uppermost groundwater aquifer occurs at depths approximately 35 to 50 feet below the ground’s surface and due to the groundwater pumping program at the refinery, which was designed to capture and treat contaminated groundwater.

Dyer said subsurface investigations performed by URS Corp. on behalf of Shell in 2006 and 2008, which included soil, soil vapor and groundwater sampling, showed that the benzene that dissolved in the groundwater near Rand Avenue has moved east under the Roxana Pubic Works facility and increased in width to approximately 200 feet at the refinery’s western fence line. He said URS would be doing the upcoming work, which will include taking samples from all the alleys and rights-of-way in the designated area.

He said that the investigation also found other hydrocarbons characteristic of petroleum refining.

A work plan to identify free petroleum products, which are products that do not dissolve in water, in several monitoring wells along the west fence line of the refinery was sent to the IEPA in September 2008, Dyer said.

“This work plan was prepared to guide future field sampling activities with the aim of assessing the nature and extent of hydrocarbons in soils and groundwater west of the fence line,” Dyer said, “It is also to understand the extent of the benzene from the 1986 release in the subsurface.”

In November, the IEPA requested a revised work plan, which was received by the state office last month. The revised work plan indicated that the free petroleum product was encountered at a shallower depth than anticipated in two localized areas.

Dyer said the most exposure to benzene in a home likely would come from impacted groundwater in a private water well. Records show that there are no private water wells within the impacted area.

“Given the current information, there is little possibility for benzene from this area to reach the village water supply wells,” Dyer said.

Vapor migration from subsurface free product or impacted groundwater also could pose a potential risk of exposure, because volatile chemicals such as benzene, when present in groundwater and soil, can migrate into buildings as vapor.

Dyer said Shell performed tests and believes vapor migration is limited.

“Shell will perform additional soil vapor sampling to verify that residents to the north are not being exposed to volatile chemical vapors,” he said.

Residents can review the proposed plan at or at Roxana Village Hall. If anyone has questions, contact Dyer at (618) 288-723; Mara McGinnis, IEPA community relations coordinator, (217) 524-3288; or Roxana Public Works Director at (618) 254-0980.

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