Illinois refinery spews silt : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Blue Island put on alert after refinery spews silt

June 18, 2000


Residents of Blue Island were warned Saturday not to use swimming pools and to curtail other outdoor activities until officials figure out just what was in a cloud of white silt emitted by an oil refinery.

The synthetic clay substance was released about 7 p.m. Friday and landed on homes, yards and swimming pools in various parts of the south suburban city of 22,000 people. Officials said it was nontoxic but could be an irritant if inhaled.

It came from the refinery owned by Premcor Inc. of St. Louis, formerly known as Clark Refining, in unincorporated Worth Township.

Mayor Donald Peloquin said refinery officials agreed Saturday to hire a specialist to test water in the park district's pool, which was closed Saturday because the sandy substance was floating on the surface. The surrounding park also was closed.

The city is trying to get the refinery to test residents' pools, too. "At least tell us what we have to do to clean them," Peloquin said. "I'm sure the residents will want Premcor to pay for it."

An employee at the refinery said no one was available Saturday to discuss the incident. The company spokesperson in St. Louis did not respond to telephone calls.

At least one nearby businessman said he didn't notice any chemical cloud Friday night.

"I didn't see anything unusual. I didn't smell anything. That's sort of strange," said Stanley Jones, manager of Kartway Go-Kart Track, down the street from the refinery. "The wind was blowing, though, so it might have blown it off."

Jones said he received a call from fire officials Friday night asking him to close, but police said his business could remain open.

Officials from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, the Illinois attorney general's office and Blue Island will meet Monday, Peloquin said.

Attorney General Jim Ryan has gone after the refinery in the past. In January, he tried to bar the refinery's reopening after it caught fire Christmas Eve, injuring one person.

At the refinery, crude oil is processed and converted into a number of products, including gasoline.

In March 1995, an explosion killed two workers, and Clark eventually agreed to pay a $1.26 million federal fine.

-- Martin Thompson (, June 18, 2000

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