Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Refinery Row Neighborhood Residents Tested for Contaminants in Texas

By Duane Craig

Refinery Row in Corpus Christi, Texas is in the news again. Texas is providing free blood and urine testing to residents in the Dona Park neighborhood to see if they have unusually high levels of cadmium, lead, mercury and arsenic in their systems, according to this report from Corpus Christi's Over the past 20 years the refineries in the area have had more than their fair share of leaks and mishaps.

Here's a recent sampling:
·      June 24, 2011 - Valero repairs leak on exchanger
·      March 14, 2011 - Valero reports an exchanger leaking into a cooler tower releasing emissions
·      January 7, 2011 - Valero reports a cooling tower leak causing hydrogen sulfide quantities to be exceeded
·      November 30, 2010 - Valero reports a leaking boiler system
·      September 16, 2010 - Citgo Petroleum Corp reports a tube leaking liquid hydrocarbons at a crude unit
·      August 17, 2010 - Flint Hills Resources' refinery releases 1,300 pounds of benzene and the Valero refinery releases 2,000 pounds of volatile organic compounds
·      February 23, 2010 - The Flint Hills West Plant releases xylene
·      July 19, 2009 - Citgo Petroleum Corp. reports a fire that was caused by leaking fumes from an alkylation unit
·      May 7, 2009 - Citco Petroleum Corp. investigates a cooling tower leak
·      June 1, 2006 - Valero's containment berm failed spilling 3,400 gallons of oil into the Corpus Christi Ship Channel 

The oil and gas industry was challenged in early 2010 to explain the inconsistent reporting of benzene and other pollutants. Besides other refineries in Texas, Valero was highlighted as inconsistently reporting releases to the state's emissions inventory and the EPA's toxic release inventory. In one case there was more than 10,000 pounds difference between the reports for the same period to the two inventories.

One of the most prominent leaks involves the release of hydrofluoric acid, according to this report at ABC News, and 32 refineries across the country that use the substance have had more than 1,000 safety violations that were willful, serious or repeats. The Citgo refinery released hydrofluoric acid over Corpus Christi in July 2009 and while safety systems performed admirably to keep the release from becoming the city's worst nightmare, residents in the Dona Park neighborhood report wondering when they go to sleep if they will live, or will have to evacuate during the night.

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