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Shell and BP named in benzene suit

By Andrea Dearden

The family of a Bethalto woman who died of leukemia blames two Roxana oil refiners for allegedly causing the disease.

Jeffrey Ochs, on behalf of his wife Debra Ochs, and the couple’s daughter filed a lawsuit Jan. 20 in Madison County Circuit Court against Shell Oil Company and BP Products North America Inc.

Ochs says Debra spent a lot of time in Roxana the last three decades, working as a teacher and principal at Central Elementary from 1994 through 2003. During that time, Shell and BP operated refineries in the area.

Ochs alleges both companies processed and used benzene and benzene-containing pollutants, known to be highly toxic and cancer-causing. Ochs says Debra’s exposure to the chemical caused her to be diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia in 2003. She died in January 2008.

Ochs is suing Shell and BP for wrongful death and negligence, saying they knowingly released benzene into the air and ground water. He is asking for more than $150,000 in damages to pay for medical expenses, lost income and court costs. They ask for a jury trial.

Attorneys Thomas E. Schwartz and Justin D. Guerra of St. Louis Keith E. Patton of Houston and Allyson M. Romani of Glen Carbon are representing Ochs.

Romani is the daughter of Madison County Circuit Judge Charles Romani.

Madison County Circuit Court Case No. 11-L-52

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