Fire at Refinery is Second Accident Since Christmas Eve Explosion : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Fire at Refinery is Second Accident Since Christmas Eve Explosion

Blue Island, IL, United States 1/29/2000- 7:05 PM

Clark Oil investigators are trying to determine what caused a weekend fire at the company's Blue Island refinery.

The fire on Saturday is the second accident to occur at the plant since a Dec. 24 (1999) explosion that slightly injured an employee and badly damaged the No. 2 Platformer.

Although the latest fire was small, it adds to nearby residents' concerns about the refinery, according to a report in the "Daily Southtown".

A spokeswoman for Clark, Susan Miller, said the fire began shortly after 7 pm. and involved a vacuum that feeds into the plant's fluid catalytic cracking unit.

Located in the northwest corner of the refinery, the unit vaporizes crude oil into lighter molecules that are blended into higher-grade gasoline and diesel fuel.

A 30-year-old Clark employee hurt his ankle after slipping off a ladder during the fire, Miller said. She wasn't sure what caused the fall.

Blue Island Fire Chief David Haywood said his reports show that a fractured steam line was involved in the fire.

"Steam line problems are typical during the winter time because they are used to keep everything thawed out," he said.

Though Miller said the fire was put out within minutes by Clark employees using hand-held fire extinguishers, several fire departments were called in as a "precautionary measure".

Rico Vallejera, an engineer with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, said his agency learned about the fire on Monday from sources other than Clark.

Clark officials told the agency about 130 gallons of crude oil had caught fire and burned for about 10 minutes. While the quantity of crude oil involved was not enough for Clark to immediately notify the IEPA, Vallejera said he wished the company would have done so voluntarily.

"We had to find out about the fire through second-hand information. they may be exempt from reporting this, but we would like to know these kinds of things before it is reported to the general public," Vallejera said. "I hope they don't think that by not saying anything we won't find out."

The Illinois Attorney General's office will send an investigator to the refinery as soon as today to determined what happened.

Asst. Attorney General Ellen O'Laughlin said it was too early to know whether the fire might prompt the state to ask a judge to impose additional restrictions on refinery operations.

On Jan. 2l, a Cook County Circuit judge approved an immediate and preliminary injunction requiring Clark to meet numerous safety-related conditions and notify state officials 14 days before trying to restart equipment damaged in the Christmas Eve explosion.

The refinery has been plagued by fires, explosions and pollution releases in recent years and is the focus of a lawsuit in which the state alleges multiple pollution violations.

Clark is among six significant state lawsuits currently pending against large industrial facilities through Illinois, according to Scott Mulford, spokesman for the attorney general's office.

The other cases involve the Clark refinery in Hartford, the former Citgo refinery in Lemont, Exxon-Mobil's Joliet refinery, the Marathon Oil refinery in Robinson and the former Shell Oil facility in Wood River, he said.

Mulford said it is difficult to rank the cases in order of significance or the seriousness of problems at a plant. "All these cases are important to us," he said.

Blue Island resident Joan Silke said she tried to call Clark officials on Sunday morning to see if something had happened because of the unusually storn smell of burning oil in the air Saturday night.

Instead of answers, Silke said she received a "mouth full of nothing".

"I asked the man who answered the phone, 'Should I be concerned? Is something happening at the plant"' All he said was, 'I can't comment' over and over, which told me something was going on," Silke said. "It was ridiculous."

Silke is a member of the Good Neighbor Committee, a group dedicated to keeping tabs on Clark's operations.


-- Carl Jenkins (, February 02, 2000

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