Sometimes, our neighbors can be pleasant or they can be more challenging. This is the case for residents of Grays Ferry, a neighborhood located near the gas refinery complex owned by Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES). The refinery has been at this Philadelphia location for 150 years. The complex has since been surrounded by residential housing and the proximity has not been easy for those residents. They say that the refinery regularly spews out odors that smell like rotten eggs. In the summer, it is unpleasant to be outside due to the stench. Odors are not the only concern; residents have experienced respiratory problems, such as recurring asthma that they attribute to the refinery. Some wonder if they are experiencing toxic exposure.
Over the years, the refinery has been found to be uncompliant with the Clean Air Act. It requires pollutant levels emitted from businesses to be kept at safe levels. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants for petroleum refineries. The regulatory scheme varies the standards based on the age of refineries. Standards are more stringent for newer sources. Refinery industries seem to be keeping obsolete refineries on-line for as long as possible to avoid more stringent standards.
Over the years, there have also been numerous fires at the complex. Community organizers have formed an advocacy group called Philly Thrive to seek action from regulators. The group has advocated for the refinery to either be shut down completely or until it complies with the Clean Air Act. Some community members have feared that the only way action will happen is if a catastrophic disaster occurs at the refinery.
Concerns for safety and health increased recently when fires again erupted at PES. An explosion at the Girard Point refinery at the PES complex caused multiple fires to break out and shook the walls of nearby homes. The city ordered residents to shelter-in-place while firefighters worked to control the blaze. The blaze grew to a three alarm fire with personnel and pieces of equipment being deployed by local fire companies. Combined efforts by on-site and local firefighters enabled the fires to be contained within a few hours. Thankfully, only four people on-site were injured.
Today, industries and residential communities are often located close together. This requires careful design with safety and health of both workers and residents in mind. The urge to maximize profits must be tempered by a responsibility to be a good neighbor and keep local residents free from exposure to hazardous materials.
If you live near a hazard, you may have options to recover damages. If you are experiencing exposure to dangerous levels of air or water contaminants, a Delaware environmental lawyer at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. can help. Call us today at 302-656-5445 or complete an online form for a free consultation. Located in Wilmington and Georgetown, Delaware, we serve clients throughout the state, including Dover, New Castle County, and Sussex County.