Philadelphia Refinery Explosion, Fire, Injures Four
The largest oil refinery and gasoline production facility on the east coast was on fire this morning after being rocked by a series of explosions in the early morning hours of the first day of summer. Early reports in the local news media say that four employees suffered minor injuries that did not require transport to area medical facilities. Officials with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that air samples taken in the immediate vicinity of the refinery, and from locations downwind that could be affected by smoke, were “acceptable” and that no potentially toxic gases had been detected. As of mid-morning, Philadelphia fire officials said that the fire had been “contained” but was not yet “under control.”
The refinery, located in the heavily-industrialized neighborhood of South Philadelphia to the east of the Schuylkill River, is owned by Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES). According to the company’s website, the facility has a production capacity of 330,000 barrels of crude oil per day. The PES facility primarily produces different grades of gasoline, diesel fuel, and heating oil. Officials say it is too early to estimate the extent of damage to the refinery, but that the loss of its gasoline production capacity would probably affect gas prices over the upcoming Independence Day holiday.
The PES facility is the oldest refinery on the east coast, with one of its units dating to 1870 and an adjacent facility that opened in 1927. Sunoco acquired both plants between 1988 and 1994 before spinning off the facility into a joint venture with creditors and investors that became PES. Given the age of the facility, and the uncertain financial situation with PES, the future of the refinery is uncertain.
Even if damage to the facility is relatively minor and limited production capacity can be restored within a few months, many in the financial community do not believe that financially-troubled PES can survive due to the fire’s impact on its bottom line. This could place local officials in the difficult position of having to deal with 1500 acres of real estate that cannot be “re-claimed” or “re-developed” due to a century of accumulated industrial contamination.
Oil refineries such as the PES facility break down crude oil into more valuable products by complex chemical processes that typically involve high temperature, high pressure and exotic metals such as platinum, cadmium, and titanium. Even under the best of conditions, these chemical processes have the potential run out of control and can lead to fires, explosions, and the release of complex chemical substances into the environment. Even after the immediate danger of a refinery fire has passed, the health problems these substances can cause may not develop until months or even years after exposure. Given the age of the PES refinery, and the fact that releases of these substances into the atmosphere was not monitored until relatively recently, it is likely that that refinery workers and even those living with such workers may have been exposed to any number of disease-causing substances.
Rather than attempt to list these substances, and the diseases that they may cause, we recommend that anyone who has been exposed to such pollutants (such as plant employees, their families, and those living in neighborhoods near the refinery) and who develop any condition that is suspected as being due to refinery-produced substances to contact a lawyer who is experienced in representing clients who were injured by industrial pollution. One such lawyer is the Philadelphia refinery explosion lawyer at The Doan Law Firm, a national personal injury law practice with offices located throughout the country.
When you contact our firm to arrange an injury case review and discussion of the legal options that may be available to you, your case review and first consultation with our Philadelphia refinery explosion layer is always free and does not obligate you to hiring our firm as your legal counsel. Should you decide to file a lawsuit, and that you would like for us to represent you in court, we are willing to assume full responsibility for all aspects of preparing your case for trial in exchange for a percentage of the final settlement hat we will win for you.