Refinery release causes traffic mess, gas price concern

October 20, 2012 12:06:56 PM PDT
The release of gas and oil into the air from the Chicago-area Exxon Mobil Refinery caused a mess Friday that resulted in a major road closure near Channahon and a concern it is already affecting gas prices.

Arsenal Road remained closed Friday night between Baseline Road to I-55, which has also been seeing some traffic problems.

"We were stuck for about an hour," said motorist Gina Papan. "Just crawling."

Papan is one of many frustrated drivers Friday night.

"There were no exits at all to get off," she said. "That's what I said to my daughter, if somebody was running on E, they were in trouble."

"It's real slow out here on 55," said Carlos Bryant. "You're backed up about probably ten, twelve miles."

It was around 9 a.m. Friday morning when Exxon Mobil says a buildup of pressure at this refinery in Channahon led to an airborne release of crude oil and other substances.

"There's no health impact," Exxon Mobil spokesperson Tricia Simpson said. "We've had industrial hygienists out all day monitoring. Currently we have a team assessing the situation."

The release was capped within a half hour, the company said, but caused slippery conditions on a two-and-a-half mile stretch of Arsenal Road, forcing its closure and impacting many truck drivers.

"It is a big exit because all the rail yards and all the oil and chemical terminals are down there that load," said truck driver Chris Allen.

"They're not able to get around," said gas station employee Jessica Merryman. "They're stuck here for the weekend. A couple people have heard that they can't get in there until Monday."

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is still assessing any environmental impact, which Exxon Mobil says initially appears minimal.

Refinery production has not been impacted, says the company, but there was a five cent bump in the price of gas blended in Chicago, in part because of a separate supply issue at the Whiting, Indiana BP plant.

"We are so profoundly apologetic to people trying to get out of center point facility," Simpson said. "We extend our profound apologies."

There have been no reports of serious illness or injury.

Exxon Mobile is offering free car washes for vehicles that have been contaminated and is working with the local Army Reserve to set up a staging area for its clean up equipment.

ExxonMobil has established a 24/7 toll-free number for inquiries about the incident. The number is 877-511-1012.


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