Surprise inspection of beleaguered Calumet refinery exposes serious problems

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Joint press release from Residents for Air Neutralization (Shreveport) and Louisiana Bucket Brigade: 

SHREVEPORT, La. – In a federal inspection shocking in the detail and severity of problems uncovered, Calumet Lubricants' Refinery Manager Tom Germany acknowledged to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that “he knows what good looks like and recognizes that Calumet is not there yet.” (p.21) The refinery manager agreed to send a document admitting that Calumet was not in compliance with the law prior to 2008.

“I am grateful to God, Residents for Air Neutralization (RAN), the Bucket Brigade and EPA for this investigation that has taken place,” said Velma White, President of RAN. “This investigation was well overdue. I’d like to know what has the Louisiana Department of Environmental of Environmental Quality been doing to protect the people.”

A copy of the EPA’s inspection report will be available at today’s press conference.

Among the most serious findings of the investigation, conducted under authority of the Clean Air Act:

Endangering the community
“The lack of an early warning system for H2S [hydrogen sulfide] is critical, especially in a rich environmental justice area and the proximity of the receptors to an accident. 2,107 people live within a half mile of the facility. Of these 40.2% are below the poverty level and 82.5% are minority. This compared to 19.6% below poverty level and 37.5% minority in the state of Louisiana.” (p. 20)

False reports
An accident on March 14th, 2011 caused a release of hydrogen sulfide at a level “above the lower explosive limit.” (p. 21) Despite refinery monitoring that showed this dangerous level, the refinery reported to the state that “the facility conducted air monitoring and nothing was noted.” (p.21) The accident on Wednesday, Nov. 2, also involved a release of hydrogen sulfide – an ongoing problem for the refinery.

Failure to maintain required certifications
“27 of the operating procedures annual certification reviewed were overdue at the time of the inspection.” (p. 15)

Incomplete reporting about refinery accidents
“In the 161 incident reports selected by EPA for review 133 had no or inadequate information under the factors contributed to the incident.” (p. 18)

Endangering workers by using people – rather than equipment – as human monitors
“Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) monitors had been removed from the processes, before April 2010, according to an internal audit, due to malfunction, and remain absent. Personnel are required to carry personal” monitors. “This requires personnel to be present to detect a H2S” release.

The investigation released today provides vindication for Residents for Air Neutralization, the local community group that has raised concern about the refinery for a decade. It also calls into question the efficacy of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. “It’s obvious that the Department of Environmental Quality is asleep at the wheel,” said Anne Rolfes, Founding Director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. “Oil industry accidents are an epidemic in this state, and Calumet is now the poster child.”


Contact: Velma White, President, Residents for Air Neutralization, (318) 218-3328
Anne Rolfes, Founding Director, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, (504) 452-4909

Press conference: NOON, Wednesday, November 9th
3300 Greenwood Road, Shreveport, LA

Telepress conference: 10:30 a.m. CST
Call in Number: 866-906-9888, Code: 4817190  

Residents for Air Neutralization is a group of concerned citizens in Shreveport working to reduce pollution and improve the quality of life in their neighborhood.

The Louisiana Bucket Brigade is an environmental health and justice organization supporting neighborhoods’ use of grassroots action to create informed, sustainable communities free from industrial pollution.

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