The Madison County Record Jun. 21, 2014, 7:13am

The owners of a Belleville business have filed suit, alleging the defendants dug a huge hole in front of their business, causing it to lose profits and appear closed.

Robert A. Lelly and Patricia A. Lelly filed suit June 5 in the St. Clair County Circuit Court against Environmental Management Inc., Michael R. Keebler and Schilling Petroleum Company.

According to the complaint, the plaintiffs were operating The Wash Depot at 323 Centerville Ave. in Belleville when Environmental Management dug a 15-foot-by-15-foot hole that was about 12 feet deep in front of their business.

Environmental Management had no permission to dig the hole, but had a contract with the Lellys’ next-door neighbor, defendant Schilling Petroleum Company, to clean up and remediate underground storage tanks, which were potentially leaking, according to the complaint.

The defendants attempted to contact the Lellys to obtain their permission to test soil, but never gained it, the suit states. Still, the defendant dug the “enormous and gaping hole” directly in front of The Wash Depot on April 22, the complaint says. The hole made it appear as if the business was closed, the Lellys claim.

On May 1, the defendants attempted to fill the hole, which made it impossible to enter and leave the property, according to the complaint. Since then, the dirt in the hole has settled and sunk, causing the land to sink two feet below grade, the suit states.

The Lellys have attempted to sell their property, the complaint says. However, the only offer they have received has been 25 percent below their asking price, the Lellys allege.

The Lellys are seeking a judgment of more than $25,000 but less than $125,000, punitive and compensatory damages, attorney’s fees and injunctive relief, plus other relief the court deems just. They are also seeking a finding that the defendants have created and maintained a nuisance and a finding that they failed to act in a reasonable manner.

They are being represented by Robert G. Jones of The Jones Law Firm in Belleville.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 14-L-478.

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