Maddy Lauria - Delaware Online
Delaware environmental regulators announced Monday that the Delaware City Refining Company will pay $70,000 for months of air pollution violations.
That includes a February 2019 fire that shut down Del. 9 and Del. 72 for hours and sent more than 6,000 pounds of "various pollutants" into the air, according to a press release from the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.
That fire largely included the release of sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide into the air, according to DNREC records. Both chemicals are considered poisonous and can cause a slew of health problems if inhaled, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The settlement announced Monday would resolve the refinery's air pollution-related violations that occurred between November 2018 and June 2019.
According to DNREC's environmental release notification system, the refinery reported releases of benzene, hydrogen sulfide, fuel oil, crude oil and petroleum in late 2018 and the first half of 2019. Since July 2019, the refinery has reported eight other hazardous releases of sulfur dioxide, propylene, propane and petroleum products, one as recently as Jan. 25.
Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless, poisonous and flammable gas that smells like rotten eggs. Acute exposure to the chemical can impact heart rate, blood pressure, the respiratory system and may cause skin irritations, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, blurred vision, sensitivity to light and neurological effects such as giddiness, irritability and dizziness.
In worst cases, exposure can lead to coma or death, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's CAMEO Chemicals database.
Sulfur dioxide is a colorless, poisonous, corrosive gas that can have a choking or suffocating odor, according to the CAMEO database. It states the chemical is "very toxic by inhalation and may irritate the eyes and mucous membranes. ... It may cause death or permanent injury after very short exposure to small quantities."
People with asthma or heart problems are at greater risk during exposure to these chemicals, according to the EPA.
In summer 2019, the PBF Energy-owned refinery near Delaware City also reached a settlement with state regulators to resolve outstanding violations for dozens of mishaps that sent sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and other toxins into the air between 2011 and 2018. That settlement included a $950,000 cost to the company.
This most recent settlement agreement alleges that the refinery's operation of certain equipment in 2019 "did not fully comply with standard."
In November, regulators had initially assessed a penalty of $90,000 plus about $2,000 in additional costs for the investigation. The refinery appealed the fine before reaching the new settlement, which also accounts for a "pollution control device outage" and flaring events, according to DNREC.
Contact environmental reporter Maddy Lauria at (302) 345-0608, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MaddyinMilford