Lawsuit claims Roxana man's fatal cancer caused by chemical exposure

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by KMOV.com staff

KMOV.com

Posted on January 7, 2013 at 12:20 PM

Updated Monday, Jan 7 at 6:20 PM

ROXANA, Ill. (KMOV) -- A Metro-East woman whose 25-year-old son died from leukemia is suing several oil companies linked to the Wood River Refinery in Roxanna, Illinois.

The lawsuit was on behalf of the estate of the man whose death, it claims, was connected with benzene exposure. Last year, more than half a dozen others sued saying their cancers were linked to benzene contamination from the plant.

Holly Reese is representing the estate of Derrick Dean Coffman. The lawsuit was filed against Shell Oil Co.

Coffman died about 8 months after being diagnosed with cancer.

“He was a wonderful man, he was a good boy. He was my only son, my only baby that I had,” said Derrick’s mother, Lisa Trumble.

Shell ran the refinery in the mid 1980’s when there was a significant benzene leak.

As a young boy, Coffman lived on a street on the western edge of the refinery and later moved to nearby Wood River. But still, Trumble contends that was within the danger zone.

“The allegations in the complaint are that they have released benzene, this chemical that’s a human carcinogen, into the air and groundwater,” said Reese. “It’s in the soil and it’s getting into the homes and it’s affecting the residents who live near the wood river refinery.”

Shell is working with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to clean up the area around the refinery.

Last month, a few homes that sit in a neighborhood along the western edge of the Wood River refinery that was formerly operated by Shell were demolished. Shell says it is also installing a Soil Vapor Extraction System to remove underground vapors.

While homes in the neighborhood have been tested and are considered within the legal limits of acceptable levels, the Village of Roxana has filed a lawsuit saying the only safe level of benzene is zero.

That lawsuit cites 18 incidents over several years in which the village claims benzene and other pollutants were spilled into the air, water and soil. It seeks damages to recover the costs of removing pollutants from water and limiting damage to public health.

”I miss his voice, miss seeing him every day. (I) miss the grandchildren I would’ve had, I miss everything,” said Trumble.

Shell has denied any wrongdoing. But because there is pending litigation, the company is choosing not to comment at this point.

 

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