EPA issues safety orders to Motiva Enterprises on Delaware refinery

The US Environmental Protection Agency Wednesday ordered Motiva Enterprises LLC to act to protect public health and environmental safety following a recent sulfuric acid spill and fire at the company's Delaware City, Del., refinery.


By the OGJ Online Staff

HOUSTON, Aug. 1 -- The US Environmental Protection Agency Wednesday ordered Motiva Enterprises LLC to take several steps to protect public health and environmental safety following a recent sulfuric acid spill and fire at the company's Delaware City, Del., refinery.

Eight people were injured and one contract employee is still missing as a result of that July 17 mishap that destroyed one of six sulfuric acid storage tanks in a containment area in the northwestern portion of the 152,000-b/d refinery (OGJ Online, July 20, 2001).

The EPA ordered Motiva to properly drain sulfuric acid from the remaining tanks; to continue monitoring wastewater to prevent acid discharges; and to provide federal regulators with an inventory of the contents of all tanks at the refinery.

Motiva also is required to implement several long-term measures, including a detailed study of the extent of contamination from the spill; removal and treatment of contaminated soil; and a rigorous tank inspection and repair program.

The EPA issued its unilateral order under the federal Superfund statute and after consultation with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources. Motiva has been working with both agencies on cleanup efforts since the accident.

However, EPA officials said Wednesday, "This order creates a legally enforceable basis for the cleanup, and we will work closely with officials from Delaware to assure that the cleanup continues."

Last week, the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board dispatched a team to investigate the cause of that storage tank's failure (OGJ Online, July 26, 2001).

CSHIB said the tank ruptured about the time that maintenance work was going on nearby. Five contract employees reportedly were welding on metal catwalks above the tanks, and the release of spent acid was ignited, said government officials.

Adjacent tanks were damaged by the explosion and fire. Two leaked acid out of the concrete containment wall around the storage area.

CSHIB said an estimated 660,000 gal of acid was released in that spill. Some of that acid apparently passed through the refinery's sewage plant and into the adjacent Delaware River, killing an estimated 2,400 fish and 240 blue crabs, officials said.

Last week, Motiva officials informed several government agencies that the collapsed tank was overdue for inspection; had open work orders to repair a hole; had been recommended for removal from service; and had previous vapor and liquid releases.

Federal, state, and corporate officials are continuing to investigate the cause of the accident.

CSHIB is an independent federal agency, similar to the National Transportation Safety Board, which determines the causes of refinery and chemical plant accidents, issues safety recommendations, and studies chemical safety issues.

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