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Illinois sues Metro East plant, alleging dangerous storage of hazardous materials

Outside of the Eagle Industrial Park at 2401 Mississippi Ave. in Sauget on April 12.
Joshua Carter
Belleville News-Democrat
Outside of the Eagle Industrial Park at 2401 Mississippi Ave. in Sauget on April 12.

Editor's note: This story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul announced Friday that his office has filed a lawsuit against JET Enterprises & Holding Company, a Delaware-based LLC that owns the former Big River Zinc plant — now the Eagle Industrial Park — in Sauget.

The lawsuit was filed in St. Clair County Circuit Court and alleges that “improper storage of numerous hazardous chemicals, illegal open dumping of dangerous metal and chemical waste, and contamination of standing water pose a danger to the environment and to the health and welfare of local residents,” according to a press release from the AG’s office.

The lawsuit also alleges that “negligent operations” at JET’s Sauget facility at 2401 Mississippi Ave. “failed to minimize the possibility of hazardous waste being released into the environment.”

Included in Raoul’s lawsuit is a motion for an immediate and preliminary injunction to halt activities endangering the environment as well as public health and welfare.

The lawsuit also seeks to require that JET hire an environmental consultant to investigate the extent of contamination at the site and complete the necessary remediation with oversight from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, which referred the suit to the AG’s office.

“Illinois law is clear — companies that own and operate industrial facilities have a legal obligation to properly store dangerous chemicals and safely dispose of waste,” Raoul said in the release. “The lawsuit against JET is an important step toward accountability.”

The facility was originally opened in 1929 as a zinc refining facility, according to the release. In the years that followed, a cadmium plant, melt and casting plant, and cooling towers were added to the facility, which operated as a zinc refinery under various owners until 2005.

The facility is now owned by JET, which bought the property in 2015 to develop a metal and steel fabrication plant at the site, the Belleville News-Democrat previously reported.

JET’s registered agent is Corporation Service Company, according to Delaware’s Division of Corporations.

A representative of Corporation Service Company said it simply forwards subpoenas to its clients and doesn’t have anything to do with lawsuits beyond that. The representative said clients’ contact information is confidential, so the BND could not reach anyone at JET for comment on the lawsuit.

The facility is located in Sauget, which initially was incorporated as “Monsanto” in the 1920s and has since been home to heavy industry and pollution. The Illinois EPA has deemed the area as being of “environmental justice” concern.

In September 2022, a fire broke out at the facility due to the spontaneous combustion of organic material, according to past BND reporting.

Kelly Smits is a reporter with the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.

Kelly Smits is the education and environment reporter at the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.