Suit says gas station knew of leak, allowed fireball to happen

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Ten explosions occurred in Westmont on Oct. 20 after a leak from an underground storage tank at a local gas station. Illinois authorities have filed a suit against the business. (WLS)

The west suburban inferno and explosion that ripped through suburban Westmont last month is now causing a legal firestorm in DuPage County.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and DuPage State's Attorney Robert Berlin on Friday filed a lawsuit against the Speedway gas station at 6241 S. Cass Ave. in Westmont. Gasoline leaks from one of Speedway's 10,000 gallon underground storage tanks seeped into the local sewer system on Oct. 20 resulting in explosions, a fire and evacuations.

As the I-Team first reported last month, Speedway officials knew there was a leak in one of their underground tanks long before the fireball but never reported the problem to authorities.

"Speedway became aware at some point between October 5, 2017 and October 15, 2017" according to the lawsuit. State and county attorneys say Speedway knew the underground storage tank "was itself compromised and was being infiltrated by water that was displacing stored gasoline, potentially causing it to be released from the tank."

In addition to the gas station remaining closed, the lawsuit asks that Speedway "perform air monitoring at any affected homes in and around the sanitary sewer system and investigate and address any contamination from the gasoline release."

There were ten explosions and three injuries, 150 apartments evacuated and 14 manhole covers blown from the ground.

"Speedway has caused and allowed a substantial danger to the environment and public health and welfare" states the lawsuit, that requests a preliminary court injunction against the gas station that would prohibit its immediate reopening.

"The explosions due to gasoline leaks at the Speedway station caused significant damage and disruption to people in the community," Attorney General Madigan said. "Today's complaint and injunction requires Speedway to remain closed until it can assure the state that it has cleaned up, determined and remedied the causes, and can ensure the safety of its operations."

The lawsuit also asks for civil penalties.

The ABC7 I-Team also reported last month that the Speedway gas station had been previously cited by state regulators for similar leakage problems.

State of Illinois environmental agency records revealed that a gas station operating at 6241 South Cass Avenue in Westmont had underground leak problems in 1990, 2009 and most recently in 2016. Records also showed that the underground tanks were nearing the end of what industry experts say was their safe longevity.

The last two gasoline leaks, in 2009 and 2016, occurred when the station was owned by current owner Speedway.
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