Sunoco Oregon Refinery
Upsets, accidents and malfunctions: 2002 - 2003
The worst year of the last two years for the Sun Refinery was 2002. There were 70 accidents, 66 of them of amounts high enough to be reported to Toledo Environmental Services.
In 2003, Sun had a total of 32 reportable violations. Six of these reported malfunctions were directly related to the blackout throughout Northeast United States, some during the black out and a couple during start up.
The accidents throughout 2002 and 2003 were varied and included these types of releases: small and large amounts of sulfur dioxide; particles, soot and dust; butane; gasoline components; and waste products known as "slop oil."
The most complete information found in the 2002 and 2003 Sun reports were for releases of sulfur dioxide. Much of the information was incomplete concerning releases of hydrocarbons, particulates and a petroleum product Sun calls "slop oil."
From the information Sun submitted to Toledo Environmental Services, it appears that most of the actions taken at the time of the upsets were of a "band-aid" nature, rather than a long term fix. This seems to explain why there are many times throughout 2002 and 2003 that Sun experienced the similar, or the same, problems many days in the same month.
Often throughout the listing of the upsets, you will see more than one incident on the same day. As much as possible, Ohio Citizen Action listed together malfunctions and upsets that occurred at the same time or were part of a cause and effect accident. There are a few accidents that occurred on the same day, but did not appear to be related. These are listed separately.
Ohio Citizen Action compiled this information from reports sent to Toledo Environmental Services from Sunoco's Oregon Refinery. Any enforcement actions, or consequences of the accidents and malfunctions are unknown. Since the information is submitted by companies to the agency without any verification or testing required, the reliability of the information is dependent upon the self-reporting by the company.
The descriptions of cause and action taken include these acronyms used by Sunoco and Toledo Environmental Services:
"FCC": Fluid catalytic crackerPotential health effects related to Sunoco releases
Benzene: Benzene is a waste product in the productions of petroleum refining. It is a carcinogen, and developmental and reproductive toxin. It is suspectedof causing cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, immune and respiratory problems in humans. Exposure may alter menstrual cycles and reduce ovary size. It may damage fetuses by causing low birth weight, delayed bone formation and bone marrow damage.
Carbon monoxide: Symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure at lower concentrations in healthy people include headaches, decreased alertness, dizziness, flu-like symptoms, nausea, fatigue, rapid breathing, confusion, disorientation, impaired judgment and weakness. Symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure at higher concentrations include brain damage, coma and death.
Hydrogen sulfide: Communities impacted by hydrogen sulfide are primarily affected by its foul odor. Although high levels of hydrogen sulfide can be irritating and cause a variety of health effects, irritation and respiratory effects are not expected to occur at levels below 30 ppb, the Minimum Risk Level established by the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Some people are extremely sensitive to the odors of hydrogen sulfide. Health effects associated with individual sensitivity to odors are relieved once the individuals leave the area affected by the odors.
Naptha: Naphtha is a group of various volatile inflammable liquid hydrocarbon mixtures used chiefly as solvents. It is obtained from petroleum refineries as the portion of the distillate which is intermediate between the lighter gasoline and the heavier benzene. Health effects may include damage to red blood cells. It is a suspected developmental toxin. Exposure increases the risk of lung tumors, and may produce damage to the eyes, liver, kidneys, skin, red blood cells and the central nervous system.
Particulates: Studies show particles damage lungs by increasing asthma attacks, aggravating bronchitis, reducing lung function growth in children, and contributing to premature death and hospital visits of people with respiratory and cardiac problems.
Sulfur dioxide: Short term exposure irritates and restricts airways, tightness in the chest, reduces mucus clearance. There are fewer long term studies, but they suggest the health effects of long term exposure are bronchitis and the suppression of the immune system.
Volatile organic compounds: There are no specified symptoms for since such a wide variety of compounds are encompassed by the term. The only descriptions which can be given are very general and apply mostly to high concentration levels. At a high concentration, they can act as central nervous system depressants, irritants, narcotics, and carcinogens with the potential to significantly increase a person's risk of acquiring cancer. Volatile organic compound problems are widespread having been reported extensively across North America and in most every developed nation across the globe. Common symptoms from these reports include headaches, drowsiness, eye irritation, rashes, and respiratory and sinus problems.
Xylene: Xylene is a suspected developemental and reproductive toxin. Exposure to it may also damage the liver adn cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, immune, nervous and respiratory systems.