Delaware City Refinery
The Delaware City Refinery commenced operation in 1957 and has since processed a variety of crude oils at a throughput capacity of approximately 190,000 barrels of petroleum product a day. Production has included diesel, gasoline, jet fuel, fuel oil, aromatics, and methanol and propane fuels.
The refinery is approximately 1-mile northwest of Delaware City, Delaware. While the refinery owns 5,050-acres of land, the refining operations occupy approximately1,000-acres. The areas north and west of the refinery are industrial, and include some RCRA and Superfund sites, and the area south of the refinery is open fields or farmland. The Delaware River lies to the east of the facility.
Site History and Refinery Restart
The refinery has had many owners since it was built by Getty in 1956. It has since been purchased by Texaco (1984) Star Enterprises, which is half Saudi Aramco (1988), Motiva (1998), Premcor Refining Group (2004), Valero (2005), and PBF Energy (2010). In 2009 Valero shut down the refinery, which remained out of operation until the refinery’s restart in 2011. Motiva retains the environmental liability for the permitted waste units and historic contamination on the site.
A History Spills, Explosions and Permit Violations
The Delaware City Refinery has had numerous spills and permit violations to date. For example, in 2011 alone the Refinery violated its air emissions, wastewater and solid waste landfill permits 29 times. The most significant incident that has happened at the Delaware City Refinery was an explosion on July 17, 2001 that released 1.1 million gallons of sulfuric acid, 99,000 gallons of which reached the Delaware River, killing fish and other aquatic life (see photo at lower right). One refinery worker was killed and eight others were injured in this explosion.
Toxins Threaten Public Health
The main contaminants released into the environment are benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, xylene , and other petroleum hydrocarbons compounds, including MTBE. Metals and chlorinated hydrocarbons have contaminated the soil, groundwater and sediments.
Contaminants and Induced Health Effect
- 1,2 dicholoro-ethane: narcosis, nausea, vomiting; liver and kidney effects; weakens immune system; can increase colon cancer if found in drinking water
- Benzene: skin and eye irritations, drowsiness and vomiting; as a carcinogenic, it can cause Leukemia
- Ethyl-benzene: dizzy, light headed; can cause liver damage
- MTBE: health limits have not been set in most states; human carcinogen at high doses
- Toluene: light headedness and euphoria; higher levels cause dizziness, sleepiness
- Xylene: irritate the nose and throat; can causes stomach problems, drowsiness, loss of memory