Madison chemical plant explosion is subject of new class action

Kelly Holleran Nov. 17, 2011, 12:34am


Two Madison County residents fear future medical repercussions after they say magnesium was released into the air near their home following an explosion at a chemical plant.

John Williams and Monica Harris-Williams filed a putative class action lawsuit Nov. 4 in Madison County Circuit Court against Magnesium Elektron North America.

In their complaint, the Williamses say they were exposed to air pollution following an explosion and fire at Magnesium Elektron North America's plant in Madison on Oct. 4, 2010.

The fire broke out near a coil reheating furnace used to heat large magnesium coils. The blaze rapidly expanded when a water line above the furnace ruptured, according to the complaint. In turn, the magnesium particles came into contact with with molten magnesium, causing a chemical reaction with hydrogen gas and multiple explosions, the suit states.

"As a result of the explosions and fire, a large plume of magnesium oxide particulates and other contaminants was emitted into the atmosphere, migrating to the nearby communities of Madison, Illinois, and Venice, Illinois," the complaint says.

The Williamses say they saw the large plume of smoke from their home on Oct. 4, 2010, and smelled an unpleasant odor in the air.

Eventually, they also noticed a thin film on their vehicle and home, which they attribute to the explosion.

A federal investigation into the environmental effects of the explosion is still ongoing, but Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has already filed a complaint, alleging that the plant violated the Illinois Environmental Protection Act, according to the Williams's complaint.

The complaint alleges negligence, trespass and nuisance claiming Magnesium Elektron North America released contaminants into the air despite the known dangers.

Because of the explosion, the Williamses say they fear adverse health effects and diminished property values.

They seek a judgment of $200,000 for each member of the putative class, plus injunctive relief requiring the plant to clean up the contamination and other relief the court deems.

Eric D. Holland, Steven J. Stolze and Kevin D. Wilkins of Holland, Groves, Schneller and Stolze in St. Louis will be representing them.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 11-L-1163.

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