Lawsuit: Firefighters were told hazardous chemical was vegetable oil
Officials are suing a trucking company over a chemical spill cleanup, claiming firefighters unwittingly handled a hazardous chemical that damaged equipment
By Todd Shields
Pioneer Press Newspapers
BARRINGTON, Ill. — Barrington officials are suing a Canadian trucking company over the cleanup of a chemical spill last year, alleging firefighters unwittingly handled a hazardous chemical that damaged their equipment after being told the material was vegetable oil.
The spill happened shortly after 11:30 p.m. March 7, when a semitrailer belonging to Xan Systems Inc. slammed into the back end of a pickup truck while the truck was moving forward after sitting at a traffic light that had just turned green along Route 14, near Hart Road, in Barrington, authorities have said.
The spill, which covered a grassy area nearby, closed both westbound lanes on Route 14 until March 10, causing traffic delays while crews worked to clean up the material.
In a recent lawsuit that initially was filed in Lake County, attorneys representing Barrington said the village is suing Xan Systems and Stanislaw Kacki, who operated the semitrailer, seeking to recoup costs to replace firefighting gear and equipment that was "rendered unusable and without value" because of the material that spilled from the semitrailer.
In the initial complaint, attorneys for Barrington said Kacki first told firefighters he was transporting vegetable oil, but firefighters who responded to the scene and were not wearing protective gear at the time later learned the material was a hazardous chemical called methylene diphenyl diisocyanate.
Representatives with Xan Systems did not return a request for comment. Kacki could not be reached for comment.
Barrington spokeswoman Patty Dowd Schmitz said during the cleanup of the spill that the chemical compound typically is used to produce polyurethane, adding how the spilled material did not pose a threat to public safety. Businesses and restaurants near the spill also remained opened during the cleanup.
When asked recently about the lawsuit, Schmitz would not specify how much the village is seeking in damages and how much the village has received to date to recoup costs for the equipment.
Attorneys representing Barrington in the lawsuit did not return requests for comment.
Margo Ely, executive director of International Risk Management Agency in Westchester, an intergovernmental risk pool that provides insurance coverage for villages, including Barrington, said the agency has reimbursed Barrington an unspecified amount for the equipment.
Lake Zurich officials also were initially named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit after firefighters with the village responded to the scene of the spill.
But the village was "erroneously" named in the lawsuit, said Kyle Kordell, assistant to the village manager in Lake Zurich, explaining that when Barrington officials filed an insurance reimbursement for damaged equipment, they included Lake Zurich's losses.
When Barrington officials received a reimbursement, they sent Lake Zurich its share, Kordell said.
Doug Gibson, director of human resources for Lake Zurich, said the $30,000 reimbursement covered the village's damaged equipment in the incident, including gloves, pants, boots, helmet liners, masks, flashlights and hoses.
"Lake Zurich has been made whole now, so we're not going after anybody," Kordell said.
Kordell said the village is working to be formally dropped as a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
Copyright 2018 Pioneer Press Newspapers
Barrington lawsuit alleges firefighters unwittingly handled hazardous chemicals while cleaning up a spill last year after being told the material was vegetable oil https://t.co/jbxBMFjPqt pic.twitter.com/wrUUDepGxR— Suburban News (@chitribsuburbs) January 31, 2018