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EPA Issues emergency order to Motiva Enterprises after sulfuric acid spill at Delaware City refinery

Release Date: 5/28/2003
Contact Information: David Sternberg (215) 814 -5548

Contact: David Sternberg 215-814-5548
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today ordered Motiva Enterprises LLC to take immediate actions to protect public health and the environment from chemical spills at the company’s Delaware City refinery.

EPA issued this order after several chemical spills at the refinery, including a May 4, 2003 over-pressurization of a sulfuric acid storage tank which caused the release of several thousand gallons of sulfuric acid and hydrocarbons.

In today’s order, EPA directed Motiva to take several immediate actions, including:

      * inspect and clean up refinery areas which were contaminated by acid.
* remove and properly dispose of contaminated soil and debris.
* investigate hydrocarbon contamination in the tank that may have
caused the over-pressurization.
* implement appropriate containment strategies for its sulfuric acid tanks.
* study sulfuric acid process controls.

“ In light of what happened May 4, EPA determined, after consultation with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, that this order was necessary to address a potentially dangerous situation in the most timely manner,” said EPA Regional Administrator Donald S. Welsh.

Motiva has reported releases of hazardous substances on 82 other occasions since June 17, 2001 including releases of acetaldehyde, ammonia, benzene, carbonyl sulfide, formaldehyde,
hydrogen cyanide and hydrogen sulfide. One of these cases, a July 17, 2001 a fire and explosion at another sulfuric acid tank, resulted in the death of one worker, and injured eight others. Since 2000, EPA, DNREC, and other federal and state agencies have taken legal actions to address environmental and public health issues at Motiva’s Delaware City refinery.

On June 22, 2000, EPA issued an emergency order requiring the company to immediately drain three deteriorating oil tanks and take them out of service, and to inspect 18 oil tanks at the facility. In August 1, 2001, after the fatal explosion of the sulfuric acid tank, EPA ordered the company to drain remaining acid tanks in the area of the explosion, remove or treat acid-contaminated soils, and to inspect and repair all tanks not containing oil. On July 15, 2002 the United States and Delaware filed suit against Motiva for violations of the Clean Water Act and other laws in connection with the explosion.

EPA issued today’s order under both the Clean Air Act and Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (the “Superfund” law). These statutes authorize the agency to issue orders needed to address “imminent and substantial endangerment” to health or the environment caused by actual or threatened releases of regulated or hazardous substances.

Both EPA and DNREC reserve the right to take additional enforcement actions at the Motiva, Delaware City refinery if they are determined to be necessary.