Roxana man claims to have lost University of Michigan scholarship due to benzene exposure

Kelly Holleran Jun. 29, 2011, 5:53am


A Roxanna man claims he lost out on a $180,000 scholarship to the University of Michigan after he developed acute myelogenous leukemia because of undetected amounts of benzene on the property where he grew up.

Scott Monroe filed a lawsuit June 16 in Madison County District Court against Shell Oil Company, BP Products North America, ConocoPhillips Company, WRB Refining and URS Corporation.

In his complaint, Monroe claims he was diagnosed with leukemia in April 2010.

Following his diagnosis, Monroe learned of the existence of benzene and other benzene containing pollutants that existed on the property of the house at 120 East First St. where Monroe grew up and lived since 1991, according to the complaint. Benzene also found its way to the elementary and high schools that Monroe attended from 1995 through 2009, the suit states.

"Benzene is a highly toxic chemical and is classified as a human carcinogen," the complaint says. "Benzene exposure has been linked to certain blood cancers, including Acute Myelogenous Leukemia."

The defendants owned facilities, known as the Wood River Facilities, which were located near the places where Monroe lived and attended school. At these places, the defendants released thousands of pounds of benzene into the surrounding air and water, causing residents such as Monroe to be exposed to them, Monroe claims.

The defendants did nothing to clean up the pollutants released for more than 20 years, despite their knowledge of the chemical's dangers, according to the complaint.

"Defendant Shell has known, or should have known, about the dangers imposed by benzene vapors entering homes and other property since it and its affiliate corporations and subsidiaries performed studies concerning vapor intrusion in the 1980s," the suit states. "Since the 1980s, Shell has known, or should have known, that vapor contaminants can migrate up through the soil and eventually come into contact with the substructure of homes and workplaces, exposing the occupants to known cancer-causing chemicals for extended periods of time. Typically, children are most at risk."

Not only was benzene released close to Monroe's property, but the Illinois EPA also discovered hydrocarbon contamination that had been leaking from the defendants' facilities into the soils along Monroe's property's boundary line, the suit states.

Because of his disease, Monroe incurred medical costs, experienced pain and suffering and faces a shortened life expectancy, according to the complaint. In addition, he has endured mental anguish and lost the chance to pursue an education in nuclear engineering with a $180,000 scholarship provided to him by the U.S. Navy, the suit states.

Monroe blames the defendants for causing his disease, saying they negligently included benzene in their products when adequate substitutes were available, failed to sufficiently test the effects of benzene on humans living in close proximity to their facilities and failed to alert Monroe and other residents of the possibility of benzene contamination in the water and air, among other negligent acts.

In his two-count complaint, Monroe alleges negligence and reckless disregard against the defendants.

He seeks a judgment of more than $100,000, plus costs and other relief the court deems just.

Christopher W. Dysart of The Dysart Law Firm in Chesterfield and Kimberly M. Steuterman of Helfrey, Neiers and Jones in St. Louis will be representing him.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 11-L-577.

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