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Chemical spill concerns Will County officials

Maps

Updated: November 5, 2013 6:25AM



JOLIET — Will County Board members are looking for answers in the wake of Tuesday’s chemical spill at a Citgo Refinery tank farm in Lemont.

“I’m concerned about safety and lives,” said “Banana” Joe Babich, D-Joliet, who chairs the county board’s public health and safety committee.

On Thursday, Babich and other members of the board’s executive committee quizzed Harold Damron, director of the Will County Emergency Management Agency, about the incident and debated possible solutions.

Damron said 5,300 gallons of naphtha, a flammable chemical solvent, spilled when a contractor hired by AT&T to do soil borings on 127th near High Road hit a small transfer line that moves the product between tanks on either side of the road. Naphtha came “oozing” out of the hole, he added.

The line was on the public right of way, but the underground pipe is owned by Citgo. The spill is being vacuumed up and the work should be done by Saturday, he said.

“I don’t know what the volatility of naphtha is,” Babich said. “But it could have been more serious than it was.”

Babich asked why the contractor didn’t call 811 to reach JULIE, the underground utility notification service in Illinois, before digging started.

“Like you see on television,” Babich said of the JULIE commercials. “Use 811 before you have to call 911.”

Damron said the contractor did make the call, but unlike utility and pipeline companies, the refinery is not linked with the service.

Damron said he will recommend Citgo join the JULIE system so it could be alerted to digging near its property in the future.

“It just underscores the importance of notification, whether you’re a contractor doing a big job or a homeowner putting in a fence,” Damron said.

Damron also noted that agents from the federal Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation are investigating the spill.

Damron said Will County has 3,300 or so miles of natural gas and petroleum pipelines, which ranks it first in the state and among the top 30 in the nation. Babich said Tuesday’s spill should be scrutinized because it’s just one of several chemical spills in recent years.

Two of the most serious examples occurred three years ago. In September 2010, an Enbridge Energy Partners pipeline leaked for three days, spewing thousands of barrels worth of crude oil into sewage and drainage systems in the 700 block of Parkwood Avenue.

About three months later, an oil spill shut down New Avenue from Archer Avenue in Lockport to 135th Street in Romeoville. A 12-inch pipeline going into the Citgo Refinery had been leaking into a wetland area.

County board member Jim Moustis of Frankfort Township, who chairs the Republican Caucus, said there are quite a few tank farms in the county, too, and many of them are unmanned.

“Maybe that’s something we need to look into,” agreed Bob Howard, D-Beecher.



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