TEXAS CITY — BP was hit with a $1 billion lawsuit last week in which 474 people claim that a 15-day emissions event in 2011 made them sick.

BP Products of North American and former BP Texas City refinery manager Keith Casey are named in the lawsuit, which was filed Thursday.

BP claims that in November 2011, a leak of Mercaptan from a storage tank at its refinery — now owned by Marathon Petroleum — caused an odor, but that no one was harmed.

Specifically, the tank was emitting dimethyl disulphide, which is a form of Mercaptan; a colorless, odorless natural gas is treated with Mercaptan so leaks can be detected.

The odor from the leak was extreme enough that more than 30 employees of neighboring Dow Chemical sought medical attention complaining of “various symptoms” at the company’s on-site health and wellness center, Dow officials said. Company officials at the time said they did scale back operations at their plant because of the leak.

Dow workers are among those in the lawsuit, lead attorney Anthony Buzbee said.

Buzbee is the lead attorney in another BP emissions event in which the company sent more than 500,000 pounds of pollutants into the air during a 40-day period in 2010, but didn’t inform the general public about the event. More than 50,000 people are part of that lawsuit which also seeks $1 billion.

That trial is scheduled to start in September.

Similarly, the 2011 leak was going on for several days before BP officials notified city officials or the general public.

It wasn’t until the foul stench prompted calls to the city’s dispatch center that the leak was traced back to BP.

“BP was aware of the release, knew of the harm the release could cause, but failed to take proper action to stop or control the release,” the lawsuit claims.

BP spokesman Scott Dean said the company would withhold comment until after the lawsuit had been reviewed.

Buzbee said despite BP’s denial, an alarm went off after it detected sulfur dioxide.

Dow workers and some residents claim the leak made them sick.

“Many sought medical treatment (and) one was hospitalized,” Buzbee said. “At least two have permanent damage, according to their doctors. BP denied releasing sulfur dioxide, but admitted to releasing mercaptan.”

The lawsuit claims BP also mislead the public about the ill affects of exposure to Mercaptan.

“(It) can also induce headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, coma and death,” the lawsuit reads. “Inhalation is the major route of exposure to methyl mercaptan. An odor threshold of 0.002 parts per million has been reported for methyl mercaptan, but olfactory fatigue may occur and thus, it may not provide adequate warning of hazardous concentrations.”

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(12) comments

Don Ciaccio

Thank God BP is gone from our community. They've always had the worst track record in the industry for this type thing, as well as safety for their employees. Punishing repeat offenders like BP with huge financial penalties seems to be the only thing that works. Sad but very true.

Paul Hyatt

Well since BP is now gone and once they cases are finished I wonder who the lawyers will be feeding off of then....

MG Tex

Heck, I'd go move next door to the place if that ambulance chaser could get ME a cooll $2 MILL when I felt nausea and a headache. It's embarrasing to see so many money grabbing people wanting to win life's lottery by suing a deep pocketed corporation. Look at the society we've become ... Sad.

George Croix

Pathetic. All of it.
Take a good close look at your friends and neighbors.
If they'll act that way with a big company, they'd do it to you, too.
It's a miracle that any of us survived multiple decades of actually working, and some of us responding to real emergencies, not fabricated ones, in that refinery. If I'd listened to the armchair experts secure in the knowledge gained from their brother-in-law's cousin's barber's next door neighbor, I'd have been a cab driver. No, wait, that's more dangerous than refinery worker.
Now, how much benefit did local charities actually get from those donated cars...?

Stephanie Martin

I hope BP fights this all the way to the Supreme Court and Buzzy never sees one cent.

Paul Hyatt

Who will the vultures feed off of once they have run all of the big companies out of this area???? What is amazing is that all who hate those refineries would be sorry if they all picked up and left this area as there would be NO jobs around here.... Even the vultures would end up leaving....

Kevin Lang

IF BP did cause people injuries or illnesses, they deserve to be sued. Employing a bunch of people is no excuse for abusing the health and well-being of your surrounding community.

On the other hand, if this is a case of a bunch of lawyers thinking they can create some kind of coincidental linkage between some minor event and some people that may have got some other kind of bug at the same time, then I believe that something needs to be done to punish people for the frivilous suits.

If you do wrong, it should not matter how big or small you are, or how rich or poor, or even how popular or unpopular you are. If you're wrong, you should pay for your mistakes. However, it is also wrong to accuse someone of doing something just because they might have a bit of a problem convincing a jury they did nothing wrong.

Paul Hyatt

Key word of yours Kev was IF.... Vultures and freeloaders make a great team to sue someone even if they were not sick or injured....

Kevin Lang

Yep. "If" is one of the biggest words in the language.

My guess is that if this goes to trial, the things that will be weighed the most are the defendants attempt to vilify the plaintiff as a company that operates recklessly and with profit as their only operational guide, and the plaintiff will be trying to vilify the defendants as money-grubbing vultures. Interspersed in there from time to time will be some scientific and medical evidence. However, what the lawyers will want the jury to rule on is the dirt, not the technical evidence.

Carol Voight

I think BP has a proven track record of being reckless so this does not surprize me. I think people in this area have to fight back or these companies will just run over us with their pollutants. I don't believe in frivilous lawsuits either, but I also don't believe a large corporation should come into our community, run off half of the population with their incompetence, pollute our cities, then walk away scot free.

Jim Forsythe

Carol, so Texas City is 30,000?

Paul Hyatt

The last I checked Texas City was still growing.... I guess Carol knows something that no one else does....

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