JOLIET, Ill. (CN) – ExxonMobil tried to fix a gas leak with a “bleeder blind” that malfunctioned and released a dangerous mixture of propane and hydrogen fluoride, polluting the air and giving two employees chemical burns, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan claims in Will County Court.
The lawsuit details claims over the release of 47 pounds of hydrogen fluoride, a corrosive gas used to make high-octane gasoline, at ExxonMobil’s Channahon refinery.
According to the lawsuit, the problem started when a pump on an alkylation unit failed on April 16, 2009. Two days later, a pipe connected to the pump was found to be leaking hydrogen fluoride and liquefied petroleum gas, and ExxonMobil sealed it off with a bleeder blind.
On Aug. 6, a nipple on the blind failed and released nearly 4,000 pounds of highly flammable propane mixed with the corrosive acid, the lawsuit states.
Although a “water deluge” system was activated, and staff ordered to take shelter, two nearby workers were allegedly hit with the gas and hospitalized. While one employee was released the same day, another was airlifted to a nearby hospital with serious chemical burns on his face, the lawsuit claims.
Madigan, on her own motion and at the urging of the state Environmental Protection Agency, wants the court to prohibit use of the bleeder blind assembly until an independent investigation has determined the cause of the failure.
She also demands at least $50,000 per violation of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act.