Wednesday, April 4, 2012

oily weather report

It seems the solution to pollution is dilution, especially prior to sampling. And if the sample will demonstrate anything contrary to permit limitations, it's cheaper to not sample and ask for forgiveness later.

December 2009 discharge into neighborhood canal, which discharges into the sensitive estuaries of The Central Wetlands of Lake Borgne Louisiana. Continued Weather Forecast in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana “cloudy, with a chance of oil”.

(Also available on Louisiana DEQ’s website, right hand column menu, EDMS icon, select AI #1238 and date range of choice.)

The DEQ renewed the Murphy Oil application for a water discharge permit in St Bernard Parish and responded to some comments.  Murphy Oil has sold the facility to Valero Refining - Meraux LLC.

It seems DEQ based its decision on 1) the Murphy facility only making two reports of permit limit excursions in five years (January 2006 to December 2011), and, 2) the facility‘s history of meeting its permit limitations. Yet, this history does not include the numerous unsampled and or undocumented permit excursions,  including DEQ’s own failure to sample the discharge and sample the receiving waters in December 2009 (photo above).  This history does not include the discharges from unpermitted outfalls.

DEQ’s decision seems based on “there is no demonstrated reasons” and further “no indication” of adverse effects, including adverse effects on receiving waters. DEQ does not mention that the refinery failed to sample, thereby giving itself a pass because, if you don’t document the excursion, you don’t have a demonstrated reason. DEQ seems to accept this fallacy. DEQ mentions the compliance order which notes the refinery’s excursions and notice of potential penalties; DEQ mentions the settlement reached with the oil company (which included about $100,000 in fines, which is a lot cheaper than adding one more storm water storage tank), but DEQ requires no changes, no additional storm water capacity nor storage tanks.   DEQ does not mention how long the tank farm had serious soil and ground water contamination even before the Hurricane Katrina nor how long the sole storm water storage tank was out of service post Hurricane Katrina. 

 Instead, DEQ refers to the new owner, Valero Corporation, and it’s successful record in another location, St Charles Parish, Louisiana, as reason enough to renew the water discharge permit in St Bernard Parish.   Yet, Valero Corporation submitted a request for DEQ to concur with some of Murphy Oil's requests for less stringent permit requirements, including an objection to the creation of a separate outfall and sampling requirement for the discharge of hydrostatic test wastewaters into our neighborhood canals.  Most of those Murphy Oil suggestions were at least denied by DEQ. 

Within six months, Valero will be required to submitt a storm water management plan of its own for the St Bernard Parish refinery, and it may include Valero's Spill Control Plan and Valero's Emergency Response Plan, not just a copy of the ole Murphy Oil best practices.  We can only hope this Valero Refinery begins to demonstrate the same level of respect and commitment to our neighborhoods; so far, we have not seen the difference.

It’s been raining for a few days now in St. Bernard Parish and while there have been no reports of oily discharges from the holding ponds into the neighborhood canal, and no rain water overflow from the refinery’s processing campus into the neighborhoods [See YouTube video from from June 2009, an event which repeated in July 2011], it is uncertain if Valero has sent any oily water, process water or any other flow from the process campus to the holding ponds.  The permit allows the refinery to store the flows of chemicals in an unlined hole in the Earth when it rains, and if the rain capacity continues to exceed the refinery’s ability to contain its own storm water, the permit allows the flow to continue into the ponds; the ponds are allowed to discharge into the neighborhood canal. There is no sampling of this flow until it has been diluted and aerated in these ponds; aerated into the neighborhoods' air.

It is this flow from the processing campus to the neighborhood that the people of St Bernard Parish insist Valero Refinery stop and instead use a more appropriate storage container, such as a tank.

DEQ did not quantify the cost of another containment tank and further DEQ determined the personal income of the Valero Employees and the tax revenues for the State and Parish are major and significant and tangible and outweigh the adverse offsite environmental costs in our neighborhood, including the adverse health effects on the people of St Bernard Parish. DEQ’s conclusion infers the value of the lives of the people of the State are less than the value of the paychecks of the workers.

Notably, the Louisiana Constitution does not establish environmental protection as an exclusive goal, but instead, requires a balancing process in which environmental costs and benefits must be given full and careful consideration along with economic, social and other factors. (page 65)

Unfortunately, the LDEQ didnot give full and careful consideration to our community.

submitted by a domiciled resident

No comments:

Blog Archive