Madigan, Glasgow take action in ExxonMobil Hydrogen Sulfide release

Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow July 25 filed a complaint against ExxonMobil Oil Corp., alleging air pollution violations after an equipment malfunction at the company’s refinery in Channahon Township caused an uncontrolled release of hydrogen sulfide that lasted more than nine and a half hours in March.

The complaint states the release began shortly after 9 p.m. March 1 and went undiscovered by refinery employees until approximately 6:45 a.m. the next morning. ExxonMobil notified the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, Will County emergency officials and other state and federal agencies that a pressure relief valve failed at the refinery’s coker debutanizer, resulting in approximately 4,066 pounds of hydrogen sulfide and other contaminants escaping into the air.

Hydrogen sulfide is a flammable, colorless gas known for its distinctive “rotten egg” odor. It enters the body primarily through breathing, and high concentrations can cause the loss of consciousness, shock, convulsions and death.

“We need to know why this incident occurred and ensure that measures are taken to avoid future releases of highly toxic chemicals that are hazardous to the employees on site as well as the whole community,” Madigan said.

“We’re working with Illinois Attorney General Madigan to hold companies accountable for the release of dangerous pollutants that impact the health and safety of our citizens,” Glasgow said. “Such violations of our state’s environmental regulations will be prosecuted aggressively in court.”

The complaint asks the court to order ExxonMobil to cease and desist from further violations of the environmental protections, take immediate corrective and preventive actions and to assess a civil penalty of $50,000 with an additional penalty of $10,000 per day of the alleged violation.

“ExxonMobil is aware of the complaint,” said Tricia L. Simpson, Midwest Public and Government Affairs Manager for the ExxonMobil Joliet Refinery. ”We will continue to work with the Attorney General to resolve issues related to this filing. As a matter of practice, we are committed to environmental performance excellence. Our goal is to drive operational incidents with environmental impacts to zero.”