Apex Oil to pay for Illinois pollution cleanup

Nick Snow
Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Aug. 5 -- Apex Oil Co. Inc. has been ordered to clean up contamination from its former refining operations in Hartford, Ill., the US Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency jointly announced July 29. Chief Judge David R. Herndon of the US District Court for the Southern District of Illinois issued the order on July 28 following a 5-week trial of a DOJ-EPA lawsuit against Apex in January and February.

The cleanup, which will cost the privately held Clayton, Mo., oil products company at least $150 million, involves extensive soil and groundwater contamination, the federal agencies said.

Soil and groundwater beneath Hartford, north of St. Louis on the Mississippi River, have been contaminated for years with more than 1 million gal of leaded gasoline and other petroleum products from refinery and pipeline leaks and spills, DOJ and EPA said. They said preliminary cleanup work began in 2004 under an agreement EPA reached with four other refiners (BP America Inc., Shell Oil Co., Sinclair Oil Corp., and Valero Energy Corp.).

DOJ sued Apex in 2005 after it refused to assist in the cleanup. The company is the legal successor to Clark Oil & Refining Corp., which owned a refinery next to Hartford during 1967-88.

The court ruled that Apex was responsible for multiple leaks and spills that contributed to the contamination beneath Hartford and violated the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, DOJ and EPA said.

The judge also ordered Apex to begin work promptly on the final groundwater and soil remedy for the community. This will involve installation of an extensive liquid and vapor extraction to remove and treat petroleum hydrocarbon contamination which is smeared into soil and floats on top of groundwater beneath Hartford, the government agencies said.

While the four other refiners were not named as defendants in the federal lawsuit against Apex, the judge's ruling against the company makes clear that they are still jointly responsible for remaining cleanup work, including ongoing efforts under their 2004 agreement with EPA.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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