suburbanChicagoNews.com: Kane sues Shell Pipeline; claims firm dumped polluted soil: “Kane County has jumped into the legal battle against Shell Pipeline Co., charging in a new lawsuit the company knew it had illegally dumped benzene-laced soil at Settler's Hill Landfill earlier this year but kept quiet to save money”: “…pointed out that Shell has managed to tie up court action relating to the tainted soil for years” (ShellNews.net) Posted 6 Nov 04
By Mike Cetera and Steve Lord
GENEVA — Kane County has jumped into the legal battle against Shell Pipeline Co., charging in a new lawsuit the company knew it had illegally dumped benzene-laced soil at Settler's Hill Landfill earlier this year but kept quiet to save money.
The lawsuit filed in Kane County Circuit Court accuses the Houston-based company of withholding for more than a week information on 12 truckloads of tainted earth that had been sent from a Kankakee County remediation site to the Geneva landfill, making it less likely officials would force Shell to remove the dirt.
The county is seeking $1 million in punitive damages on charges of negligence and trespass.
"We own this landfill," said Timothy P. Dwyer, a lawyer hired by the county as a special state's attorney. "We have a duty to, A, make sure this hasn't happened before, and, B, that it won't happen again."
The complaint also alleges Shell violated state law when it prepared false shipping manifests — which indicated the soil was safe for dumping at Settler's Hill — and failed to label the waste during transportation.
The illegal dumping had an "environmental impact on Kane County" and caused a halt of business at the landfill, according to the lawsuit.
In alleging that Shell knew what had occurred, and covered it up, the county's lawsuit is different than one filed by the Illinois attorney general's office in September. The attorney general's office is seeking monetary damages for the dumping itself.
The county lawsuit also includes a second defendant, Parsons Engineering Science Inc., which Dwyer identified as an engineering firm working for Shell.
The state's lawsuit seeks $50,000 for three violations of the law, $10,000 for each day the violations have occurred and another $25,000 a day for one of the violations. Like the county's lawsuit, the state's also alleges the company presented false manifests to local landfill managers so they would not know the soil was tainted.
Shell officials have said they think the situation can be worked out without legal action. But Kane Board Chairman Mike McCoy, R-Aurora, has said it appears legal action is all that will work. Even so, McCoy pointed out that Shell has managed to tie up court action relating to the tainted soil for years.
A Shell attorney could not be reached, but a company spokesman earlier said Shell officials contacted the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the landfill operator on the day it confirmed the tainted soil had been shipped. The lawsuit alleges Shell knew of the illegal dumping on Feb. 10, but didn't report it until Feb. 19.
The dirt in question became tainted during a 1988 gas spill from an underground pipeline about a mile away from the Kankakee River. The company has been monitoring the site since and removed some of the soil earlier this year to conduct an inspection of the pipeline.
The soil that was trucked to Geneva was supposed to remain stored on site. The lawsuit charges that Shell did not follow its own procedures.