A Wood River woman contends she developed leukemia because of exposure to pollutants allegedly released by the town's oil refinery.

Janice K. Kalert filed a lawsuit Jan. 11 in Madison County Circuit Court against Shell Oil Company, BP Products North America Inc. and ConocoPhillips Company.

Kalert says she lived on Walnut Street in Roxana from 1994 through 2003 and on Picket Avenue in Wood River from 2003 until now. Kalert claims both homes are near the defendants' oil refinery known as the Wood River Facility. Kalert alleges the refinery handled and processed the chemical benzene and benzene-containing products during the time she lived nearby.

Kalert claims the oil companies allowed thousands of pounds of benzene and benzene-containing pollutants to be released into the air and ground water of the refinery's adjoining neighborhoods. According to studies cited in the complaint, benzene has been linked to certain blood cancers, like acute myelogenous leukemia. Kalert says she was diagnosed with the disease in March 2011.

Kalert accuses the defendants of negligence, claiming the companies knowingly released a toxic chemical into the environment. She says Shell Oil and ConocoPhillips are liable for her cancer diagnosis. She seeks more than $100,000 in damages for medical expenses and court fees.

Kalert is represented by attorneys Thomas E. Schwartz and Justin D. Guerra of St. Louis. They ask for a jury trial.

Madison County Circuit Court Case No. 12-L-45

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