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Lawsuit: Pipeline Rupture Released 3,500 Gallons Of Heavy Crude Oil Into Cahokia Creek

Lawsuit: Pipeline Rupture Released 3,500 Gallons Of Heavy Crude Oil Into Cahokia Creek

A lawsuit against Marathon Pipeline claims its Woodpat Pipeline ruptured in 2022, dumping 3,500 gallons of heavy crude oil into the Cahokia Creek and damaging the environment.

Collinsville attorney John Leskera filed the lawsuit on behalf of Leskera Family Farm Revocable Trust in the Madison County Circuit Court against Marathon Pipeline LLC.

According to the complaint, the Trust owns property in Madison County that travels along the Cahokia Creek for 1.14 miles. The Cahokia Creek empties into the Mississippi River. Marathon Pipeline operates the Woodpat Pipeline, which transports heavy crude oil from Wood River to Patoka, Ill.

The suit states that on March 11, 2022, the Woodpat Pipeline ruptured near milepost 6.2 in Edwardsville, resulting in the release of at least 3,500 gallons of heavy crude oil. The oil allegedly flowed downstream and damaged the plaintiff’s property, killing plants and wildlife that had been using the property as a habitat.

The plaintiff alleges the oil was toxic to aquatic organisms and plants, affecting their respiration, feeding and thermo-regulation in wildlife. Further, the inhalation of heavy crude oil by humans is known to cause chemical pneumonia; irritation of the nose, throat, and lungs; headaches; dizziness; drowsiness; loss of coordination; fatigue; nausea and labored breathing, the suit states.

Prior to the pipeline rupture, Marathon allegedly performed a caliper/inertial measurement unit (IMU) assessment in August 2012 for mechanical damage and geometric anomalies at the area where the rupture later occurred.

“The IMU demonstrated that the Cahokia Creek’s bank adjacent to the area of the rupture presented a threat of external loads on the pipeline which may lead to rupture,” Leskera wrote.

Then in 2014, the suit states that concrete revetment mats were installed along the Cahokia Creek bank to protect the pipeline from erosion found in 2012. These were installed adjacent to the area that ruptured in 2022.

In 2017, the revetment mats were repaired.

The following year, 18 areas were found to have bending strains, with the worst being near the location of the rupture.

“Bending strain, the change in pipeline length over original length caused by bending deformation, is a common indicator of surrounding ground movement and consistent with the erosion of the Cahokia Creek near the 2022 rupture location,” Leskera wrote.

An investigation was completed in July 2021 by Marathon in response to the 2018 IMU assessment. Marathon planned on conducting a bending strain and pipeline movement analysis in 2022 following the investigation, but the work was not completed before the March 11, 2022, rupture.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) performed testing on the fractured pipe and observed complete separation at the rupture origin.

Leskera alleges that it was Marathon’s duty to ensure that the pipeline was reasonably safe for the transportation of heavy crude oil.

The suit states that Marathon failed to repair the slope instability, failed to implement additional measures when the revetment mats failed to stabilize the bank of the Cahokia Creek, failed to recognize that further reinforcement was necessary, failed to deploy the strain monitoring, and failed to implement other assessments to prevent rupture.

Leskera wrote that Marathon also failed to appreciate the urgency of the 2021 strain investigation, failed to replace the bent pipeline, and failed to implement policies for the safety of its pipeline.

As a result, Leskera alleges the plaintiff sustained damages including diminution in the value of its property, loss of use of the property for recreational purposes, and other damages to the land.

“The defendant Marathon knew, or should have known, that the slope stability assessments dating back to 2012 showed that the erosion of the bank of the Cahokia Creek was placing dangerous bending strain on the pipeline likely to result in rupture of the pipeline,” Leskera wrote.

Leskera seeks punitive damages for the plaintiff, claiming Marathon’s refusal to take reasonable steps to prevent the pipeline rupture was willful and wanton.

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