By Harvey Rice
GALVESTON — A lawsuit seeking $1 billion from BP claims that the company tried to cover up a 2011 release of pollutants that damaged the health of residents living near its former Texas City refinery.
The lawsuit is the second against BP seeking damages allegedly caused by a release of pollutants into the air from the refinery, purchased by Findlay, Ohio-based Marathon Petroleum Corp. last year.
The lawsuit filed last week by 474 Galveston County residents accuses BP of intentionally misleading the public about the seriousness of a Nov. 10, 2011, leak that continued for several weeks. The lawsuit states that the leak of sulfur dioxide, methyl mercaptan, dimethyl disulfide and other pollutants possibly ended in early December 2011.
A BP spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
A BP statement at the time of the release said the company’s monitoring failed to pick up any detectable levels of mercaptan. The lawsuit, however, says BP knew the monitors were incapable of detecting the chemical, a naturally occurring substance with a strong odor often added to natural gas.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease registry says little is known about the health effects of methyl mercaptan, but a worker died after being exposed to high concentrations.
The nearby Dow chemical plant detected sulfur dioxide Nov. 12, 2011, causing it to temporarily shut down most of its operations, send non-essential employees home and issue respirators to those that remained, the lawsuit said.
More than 48,000 residents in the Texas City area sued BP after a 40-day release of pollutants in April 2010. The first of those cases is scheduled to go to trial later this year.