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Another leukemia patient sues Shell, BP

The complaint alleges that Shell has known about the dangers of benzene causing cancer for decades, but publicly minimized and hid those dangers.

By SANFORD J. SCHMIDT: The Telegraph: July 22, 2011 7:58 PM

EDWARDSVILLE – For the third time this year, a victim of an aggressive form of leukemia who spent time in Roxana schools has filed suit against Shell Oil Co. and BP, claiming benzene around its refinery caused the disease.

Greg Wells of East Alton, who formerly lived in Wood River and attended Roxana schools, has been diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia.

His lawyer, Christopher Dysart, said his client was diagnosed in May 2010.

The lawsuit filed in Madison County Circuit Court claims Wells will have a shorter life expectancy, suffer mental anguish, will incur medical bills and will have to get treatment for the rest of his life.

The two-count suit seeks more than $50,000 in damages on each count.

The complaint alleges that Shell has known about the dangers of benzene causing cancer for decades, but publicly minimized and hid those dangers.

The suit claims that Shell has known about the risks of benzene exposure entering homes and other property since it performed studies in the 1980s.

The complaint states the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have cited Shell for numerous environmental violations.

Dysart claims Shell most recently was cited 41 times in May 2008 for exceeding the standards for the release of benzene and other chemicals into the groundwater of Roxana.

Dysart also represents Scott Monroe, who attended school in Roxana. He also has been diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. Monroe filed suit last month.

Debra Ochs, who died of AML in 2008, was a teacher in the district from 1983 until she died. Her estate filed suit Jan. 20. Dysart’s firm also has filed a class-action suit, claiming the benzene problem has decreased property values in Roxana and surrounding areas.

The problem of refinery emissions in Roxana has come into sharper focus recently as the Illinois Environmental Protection has been digging test wells and taking other actions to detect possible leaks in the area.

State officials said they have detected some emissions recently, but they have downplayed the level and danger of those emissions.

An IEPA official said the agency has been closely monitoring the area around the plant since a benzene release in 1986, when the plant was owned by Shell Oil Co.

Shell has agreed to pick up the tab for the monitoring, because that company was the owner during the 1986 benzene release. Benzene is a component of gasoline but is toxic and may cause cancer.

IEPA officials said there is benzene in the soil around the plant, but it is 40 to 45 feet below the surface.

Shell announced the increased monitoring in 2009. The company said it would check for benzene, which was released from an underground pipeline in 1986.

A total of 8,400 gallons of benzene leaked from the pipeline in 1986. That line extended from the plant to barge loading facilities on the Mississippi River, along a route parallel to Rand Avenue.

The underground pipeline was abandoned and replaced with an above-ground section of pipe.


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