Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Will County prosecutors have filed a lawsuit against ExxonMobil Corporation after an equipment malfunction at the company’s Channahon Township refinery caused a release of hydrogen sulfide into the air that lasted nearly 10 hours.
According to the complaint, the release started about 9 p.m. on March 1 and went undiscovered by refinery employees until approximately 6:45 a.m. the next morning. ExxonMobil notified the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, Will County emergency officials, and other state and federal agencies of the toxic release.
Company officials told state regulators that a pressure relief valve failed at the refinery’s coker debutanizer, resulting in approximately 4,066 pounds of hydrogen sulfide and other contaminants escaping into the air.
Hydrogen sulfide is a flammable, colorless gas known for its distinctive sulfuric odor. The gas enters the body primarily through breathing, and high concentrations of it can lead to loss of consciousness, shock, convulsions, and death. The gas is also extremely corrosive.
“We need to know why this incident occurred and ensure that measures are taken to avoid future releases of highly toxic chemicals that are hazardous to the employees on site as well as the whole community,” Ms. Madigan said.
Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow said that his office was working with the Attorney General to hold ExxonMobil accountable for releasing “dangerous pollutants that impact the health and safety of our citizens.”
“Such violations of our state’s environmental regulations will be prosecuted aggressively in court,” Mr. Glasgow said.
The lawsuit asks the court to order ExxonMobil to take corrective actions to ensure such a leak won’t happen again and seeks more than $50,000 in civil fines for violating the state’s anti-pollution laws.