Simmons Hanly Conroy Secures Nearly $4.5 Million Settlement for Homeowners Harmed by The Wood River Refinery Underground Benzene Spill

Attorney John Simmons helps neighbors hold refinery owners, operators responsible for decades of pollution

ALTON, Ill. – Simmons Hanly Conroy, one of the nation’s largest mass tort litigation firms, is pleased to announce a $4.48 million settlement for a class of 183 properties polluted by an underground plume of benzene and other carcinogenic chemicals released from the nearby Wood River Refinery. A federal judge preliminarily approved the class action settlement today.

The class action lawsuit was filed in April 2012 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois by John Simmons, Paul Hanly and Ted Gianaris, Shareholders of Simmons Hanly Conroy. The lawsuit alleged violations of an anti-dumping ordinance, trespass, public and private nuisance, unjust enrichment and violation of the Illinois Water Pollutant Discharge Act. A similar suit representing the Village of Roxana was filed in March 2012 and is ongoing.

Simmons grew up in East Alton and attended Roxana High School before marrying his high school sweetheart and joining the Army. He lived in Roxana when he started the firm. Now headquartered in Alton, Ill., his firm has more than 250 employees in five offices coast to coast and helps thousands of people nationwide stand up for their rights against large corporations.

“While a lawsuit cannot undo what has been done, I hope the people of Roxana find some relief in this result for what they have endured,” Simmons said. “These are my friends and neighbors. They’re not litigious people. They just want what’s fair and to hold the owners and operators of the refinery accountable for the mess it made.”

Roxana residents and property owners who meet the class requirements are automatically eligible to receive an equitable portion of the settlement. They must opt out if they do not wish to participate. Further instructions will be mailed to qualified class members in the coming months. Gianaris said he expected settlement proceeds could be mailed as soon as the end of the year.

“This settlement provides homeowners living over the spill with fair money for a bad situation,” Gianaris said.

The Wood River Refinery experienced 18 spills in 25 years that released dangerous chemicals including benzene, hexane and other toxic compounds, according to the complaint. The fugitive emissions were attributed to broken pipelines and the refinery itself. Much of the contamination is underground and affects property extending several blocks into the village’s residential area, affecting nearly a quarter of residents.

“The refinery’s own testing showed the contamination had occurred and was far above the amount allowed under Illinois environmental law,” Gianaris said.

Testing was done in several alleys owned by the village. Results were positive for benzene contamination in the alleys from East Second to East Eighth streets. Excessive levels were detected at many locations, but contamination was the highest in the Village’s Public Works Yard, where it registered some 26,000 times (or 2.6 million percent of) the allowed limit at certain depths.

The homeowners case is Parko et al. v. Shell Oil Company et al., case number 3:12-cv-00336.