Western Refining Spews Potentially Harmful Gases

POSTED: Thursday, July 28, 2011 - 5:07pm

UPDATED: Thursday, July 28, 2011 - 10:34pm

EL PASO- Dangerous gases are still spewing into El Paso’s air after a refinery accident Tuesday night.

The lightning storm knocked out power at Western Refining, and since then the plant has intentionally turned up the heat, burning crude oil which it says cannot go back into storage.

As a result, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, sulfuric acid and hydrogen sulfide have been burning and belching for the past 45 hours. NewsChannel 9 is getting messages from people miles away from the refinery complaining about strong odors. The gases have been pouring from these flares at Western Refining since Tuesday night. People smell it and naturally they're concerned.

It’s started around 8:30 Tuesday night when the severe thunderstorms pounding the borderland caused a power failure at western refining in the lower valley As a result, the refinery had to shut down until Wednesday night. It also had to start burning crude oil from the flares. Tens of thousands of pounds of gases are involved.
 

A company spokesperson says there is no danger to the public. He says the strong odor is actually from liquid being stored in tanks.


As of now, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is monitoring the situation.

 

Here's a list of the chemicals being emitted from the refinery and links to what health concerns the chemicals raise:

Carbon Monoxide:

http://www.aqmd.gov/forstudents/health_effects_on_children.html#carbonmonoxide
http://www.epa.gov/iaq/co.html#Health Effects

Nitrogen Oxides:
http://www.aqmd.gov/forstudents/health_effects_on_children.html#NitrogenOxides
http://www.epa.gov/iaq/no2.html#Health Effects Associated with Nitrogen Dioxide

Sulfur Dioxide:
http://www.aqmd.gov/forstudents/health_effects_on_children.html#SulfurOxides
http://www.cleanairtrust.org/sulfurdioxide.html

Sulfuric Acid:
http://www.epi.state.nc.us/epi/oii/sulfuricacid/#chronic
http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/chem_profiles/sulfuric_acid/health_sa.html#_1_1

Hydrogen Sulfide:
http://www.health.state.ny.us/environmental/chemicals/hydrogen_sulfide

http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/815139-overview#a0199

Volatile Organic Compounds:
http://www.epa.gov/iaq/voc.html#Health Effects
http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/hm/schlage/vocfactsheet.pdf
 


 

Comments News Comments

I posted a comment on this story a few minutes ago but it got lost when I logged in, apparently.

I want to compliment the station on this very important story. Thanks for the seriousness with which you reported, and then even bringing in Chuck DeBroder to discuss the wind patterns and how they effect the dispersion of the dangerous emissions.

I now appreciate the value of your new anchor and why maturity matters. Please don't back off after you receive flack from WR for your reporting.

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