Residents in the city of Torrance are still thanking their lucky stars that they are alive and breathing. An explosion, in early 2015, at the Torrance based Exxon Mobil refinery, set the wheels in motion that the plant was sold the previous month, to an independent company based in New Jersey. It also revealed a highly lethal chemical was leaked during the explosion. The chemical causes burns and/or suffocation once exposed. A federal ruling on the chemicals use, has this deal hanging by the proverbial thread.
With the sale of the Exxon Mobil refinery being conditional, lobbyists face a monumental task in ensuring the deal isn’t sabotaged. The city of Torrance and CAL OSHA have to sign off that the refinery is fully repaired. This faulty plant is almost akin to the faulty San Onofre power plant that was leaking radiation into the groundwater supply. Shouldn’t the city want to see the plant shut down?
Related article: San Onofre Nuclear Plant Closed After Radiation Leak
The government also has to state whether a lethal chemical, hydrofluoric acid, can continue to be used at the refineries in Torrance and Wilmington.
Related article: Could regulators ban modified hydrofluoric acid at Torrance, Wilmington refineries?
How lethal is this chemical? The Daily Breeze goes into graphic detail:
The Department of Environment, Health and Safety at the University of North Carolina issued a hydrofluoric acid fact sheet that notes the estimates of the lowest lethal dose of the chemical when inhaled is 50 parts per million for just five minutes. Skin exposure to hydrofluoric acid over just 2.5 percent of a person’s body can cause death.
Hydrofluoric acid injuries are particularly gruesome.
UNC’s fact sheet said that hydrofluoric acid “readily penetrates the skin, causing destruction of deep tissue layers, including bone” and that, untreated, “tissue destruction may continue for days and result in limb loss or death.”
Had the explosion occurred in the area this highly lethal chemical is used, how many potential people would be affected? The Daily Breeze reports:
In a worst-case disaster at the Torrance refinery, Hayati estimates that more than 250,000 South Bay residents in seven cities would be at risk of exposure; residents within a two-mile “kill zone” could be exposed to life-threatening concentrations of the chemical.
Is your city within the “kill zone” of either plant? What is the South Bay Cities Council of Governments (SBCCOG) position on this?
The SBCCOG runs the South Bay Environmental Services Center, which is a utility and taxpayer-funded partner, who is awarded contracts for community outreach, on environmental issues. Their media page doesn’t list any articles detailing environmental concerns in the cities, they receive dues from, only press releases on how they are attempting to meet contract deliverables.
PBF Energy has purchased three additional refiners in Delaware City, Louisiana and if approved, California, to become the largest independent oil refiner in the nation. The deal is expected to close in mid 2016.
The Delaware purchase is of particular concern. The deal closed in 2013, with PBF Energy execs selling the community on their commitment to safety. Lo and behold, less than a year later, they were back in front of the community addressing safety concerns of their moving oil by rail.
Related article: Delaware City refinery officials ease rail safety concerns
The median home value, near the refinery, is approx. $500,000.