Thursday, August 11, 2011

Benzene Contamination Highlights Refinery Pollution

By Duane Craig

Benzene contamination devalues properties and has side effects
Benzene contamination in an Illinois town has prompted six families to file a class action lawsuit against Shell Oil Company and BP Products North America because the benzene spill there has devalued their properties and made them face the side effects of benzene exposure, according to this report at

The plaintiffs blame Shell for releasing 8,400 gallons of benzene as it was piped to a barge on the Mississippi River from the Wood River Refinery in Roxanna. The plaintiffs then claim the benzene contaminated the groundwater and reduced the value of their properties.

Refinery spills, like spills at sea, are not necessarily always reported so researchers use known historical data and evidence of mechanical and material failures to come up with baseline expectations of spill volumes.

Benzene Contamination in California

For example, the California Air Resources Board with the California Energy Commission, released a report in 2002 showing historical marine petroleum spills average 822 incidents each year with each spill releasing 60,157 gallons. The report estimated that each refinery releases 10,000 gallons of oily liquid every day adding about one to two cents to the cost of gasoline and diesel products. Refinery spills, according to the report, account for more volume, and cost, than all other spill sources combined, with marine spills in the open ocean coming in a distant second in terms of costs.

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