“Activists hope they are edging nearer a long-sought ban on a highly-toxic chemical used at refineries in Torrance and Wilmington after the local pollution watchdog for the first time set a deadline — May 19 — for the industry to produce additional safety information about what’s called modified hydrofluoric acid.”
Click the image above to watch TRAA’s short four-minute video that refutes the notion shelter-in-place can protect students from an accidental release of highly toxic MHF from the Torrance or Valero refineries, the only two in California that use it.
“In a weeklong public safety awareness blitz, local activists are distributing 100,000 door hangers to South Bay homes surrounding the Torrance refinery, the same number they say could be affected by a catastrophic leak of a toxic chemical the plant uses to refine gasoline. . . .”
THE DANGER One of the world’s most dangerous industrial chemicals, hydrofluoric acid (HF) is used in massive quantities in only two California refineries, Torrance and Valero, Wilmington. The refineries claim a chemical they add to the HF makes it safe. But at only one or two additive molecules per hundred, it’s too little to make a difference. “Modified” hydrofluoric acid (MHF) is just as deadly as HF. If released, it forms a ground-hugging cloud that can drift for miles, causing death and injury. The refineries’ other mitigation measures, like water sprays and barriers, are also ineffective. Mass casualties can result from an MHF release — wind direction determines who dies.
WHAT’S BEING DONE For decades, the South Bay has battled the refineries’ all-too-successful campaign to keep using HF rather than converting to a much safer process, such as is used at Chevron in El Segundo and the other California refineries. Following the massive Torrance refinery explosion in February 2015, which nearly released 50,000 lb of MHF, investigations by TRAA and the U.S. Chemical Safety Board uncovered the true threat MHF poses. Now, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) is considering Rule 1410 to require MHF/HF replacement with a safer alternative at both refineries. But industry is fighting back with well-financed campaigns. The next few months are critical!
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In his Daily Breeze Opinion piece, Torrance Refinery manager Steven Steach categorically asserts, without any specifics, that warnings on the TRAA door hangers in its recent 100,000 door-hanger campaign are incorrect and misleading and contain false claims about risks caused by the Torrance Refinery. The TRAA Science Advisory Panel of eight local scientists and engineers with extensive experience with highly toxic chemicals, carefully reviewed the door-hanger content and found it to be an accurate, concise statement of the current situation with no misleading information.
At least we can agree with the Torrance Refinery and the experts Mr. Steach cites that Hydrogen Fluoride (HF) is far too dangerous for a refinery to use in a highly populated area. Of the EPA’s list of 255 extremely hazardous substances that require a Risk Management Plan, HF is in the group of the top 5% that are the most dangerous. And, of Department of Homeland Securities’ Chemicals of Interest (COI) list of the 187 substances with toxic releases, HF is in a group of six with the highest danger, edged out by only one chemical — the infamously deadly phosgene, which killed about 85,000 in World War I. Mr. Steach states that the refinery phased out HF in 1997. But did it really? . . .
“Fifty refineries across the United States use hydrofluoric acid. Because this highly toxic substance can travel for miles in the form of a potentially fatal ground-hugging cloud, however, use of the chemical continues to prove highly controversial — rarely more so than now, given recent accidents at some of these refineries and potential rule changes that call into question the chemical’s long-term future in the oil refining industry.
“In January 2017, California regulators announced that they were taking steps to potentially phase out a modified version of the acid being used at the two refineries in the state, but the rule is still being thrashed out, and it’s too soon to say whether an outright ban on hydrofluoric acid will be enacted there. . . .”
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Click the image above to watch TRAA’s short one-minute video featuring Torrance resident Michelle Rushton speaking at a Southern California AQMD meeting in Torrance on the impact of potentially catastrophic hydrofluoric acid from the Torrance and Valero refineries in the South Bay of Southern California.