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Upton reports: "Even as ExxonMobil was mopping up after its disgusting tar-sands oil spill in Arkansas on Wednesday, it spilled an unknown amount of unknown chemicals - possibly hydrogen sulfide and cancer-causing benzene - during an accident at a riverfront refinery in Louisiana."

The Chalmette refinery. (photo: skooksie)
The Chalmette refinery. (photo: skooksie)

ExxonMobil Spills Chemicals While Cleaning Spilled Oil

By John Upton, Grist

06 April 13


ven as ExxonMobil was mopping up after its disgusting tar-sands oil spill in Arkansas on Wednesday, it spilled an unknown amount of unknown chemicals - possibly hydrogen sulfide and cancer-causing benzene - during an accident at a riverfront refinery in Louisiana.

The Chalmette refinery chemical spill might have gone unnoticed, except that it stank out the city of New Orleans and several nearby parishes, leading to state and federal investigations (we told you about that mysterious odor yesterday). Frankly, ExxonMobil's track record here sucks: The same refinery spilled 360 barels of crude oil in January.

From The Times-Picayune:

ExxonMobil first reported releasing 100 pounds of hydrogen sulfide and 10 pounds of benzene, a volatile organic carbon compound known to cause cancer, because those amounts are the minimum required for reporting, [Coast Guard Petty Officer Jason] Screws said. But the company has since said it is unsure exactly what chemicals were involved or how much may have been released, he said.

The spill occurred as a result of a break in a pipeline connecting a drum used to store "liquid flare condensate," with a flare on the refinery site, Screws said. He said the company measured 160 parts per million of hydrogen sulfide and 2 parts per million of benzene in the air at the site of the spill, but has not seen similar readings at the plant's fence line or in the neighboring community.

Residents from the region inhaled chemicals caused by the spill for more than a day, leading to reports of breathing difficulties and other ailments. But the Coast Guard rushed to soothe folks, assuring them not to worry their chemical-infused heads about it. From Reuters:

"We haven't told the refinery to shut down because we haven't any cause for a shutdown," [Lieutenant Lily] Zeteza said. "We've no indication that this is dangerous."

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+49 # phrixus 2013-04-06 12:06
ExxonMobile could screw up a one-man rock fight. Where do they get their people from? Disneyland?
+24 # DPM 2013-04-06 15:21
Business school.
+17 # 6thextinction 2013-04-06 15:58
Roy Tillotson, C.E.O. of ExxonMobil, makes over $5,000,000.00
per year.
+11 # 6thextinction 2013-04-06 16:05
Ooooops, C.E.O of Exxon Mobil is Rex Tillerson. Salary is correct, tho--over $5 million per month.
+9 # Trueblue Democrat 2013-04-06 18:24
Actually, his name is T Rex. He was named for his godfather -- the U S Congress.
0 # Trueblue Democrat 2013-04-06 18:20
[Deleted by author.]
+70 # DRPJJ 2013-04-06 12:08
And they expect us to believe their XL pipelines will be any safer!! What does it take to KNOW when something isn't safe? Total annihilation of the population??
+4 # doneasley 2013-04-07 16:45
Quoting DRPJJ:
And they expect us to believe their XL pipelines will be any safer!! What does it take to KNOW when something isn't safe? Total annihilation of the population??

They know it's not safe, DRPJJ, but they don't care because they know that whatever messes they leave we'll clean up. Now this Tar Sands oil from Canada is extremely hard to clean up because it sinks to the bottom of any waterway that it comes in contact with. The Kalamazoo River in Michigan is still contaminated from a 2010 spill from a broken CANADIAN pipeline. These are the people who create great technology to implement their latest and greatest ideas, but give no thought to creating technology to clean up their messes.

We've gotcha covered Exxon.
+46 # WestWinds 2013-04-06 13:25
This article is making me laugh! Talk about screaming incompetence. Just because people are in business and have a lot of money really doesn't mean that they have two sane brain cells to rub together. I'm glad the First Nation People are on our side. When the public finally wakes up to all the stooping and duping, the FNP will be their to teach us how to pick up the pieces and clean up the mess! It is time to turn from materialism and embrace spiritualism if all things living are to survive. We need to work together to fan the flames of the eighth fire.
+40 # jussayin 2013-04-06 13:34
Now now, be nice. How can we expect them to keep track of and safely contain all those toxic chemicals when they've had to shift employees over to the task of counting their record profits.
+24 # DRPJJ 2013-04-06 14:02
That they pay no taxes on because its all "off-shore" to help their "bottom line."But, hey, what do a few million or more deaths and illnesses count in the scheme of things. Oh, you mean NOW, not 1,000 years from now. Oh well, no one alive by then anyway. If we don't kill us with toxic waste, we'll do it with Genetically Engineered foods and poisons like Aspartame in milk, among other such ploys to beguile us proletariat. Again, send in the clowns, even our "gladiators" have feet of clay.
+33 # Regina 2013-04-06 14:04
Any high school chemistry student can tell you about H2S -- IT STINKS! It's nauseating. And the whole school reeks when they make it. But don't expect the gurus in the oil business to know about chemistry. If they did we might be a lot safer. But all they know is money -- a highly toxic compound indeed.
+47 # T Green 2013-04-06 14:08
Exposure to low concentrations of hydrogen sulfide may cause irritation to the eyes, nose, or throat. It may also cause difficulty in breathing for some asthmatics. Brief exposures to high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide (greater than 500 ppm) can cause a loss of consciousness and possibly death. In most cases, the person appears to regain consciousness without any other effects. However, in many individuals, there may be permanent or long-term effects such as headaches, poor attention span, poor memory, and poor motor function. No health effects have been found in humans exposed to typical environmental concentrations of hydrogen sulfide (0.00011–0.0003 3 ppm).
Grew up in a petro-chem town and left when able to do so
These industries lie like crazy. Benzene is even more insidious so that the reality is any exposure has is detrimental consequences. Just south of the city is a native reserve crammed in between the plants and the cancer and birth defects there are criminal but between government and industrial denial these people are left to suffer. Criminal is the only way to see this especially when they do know.
+24 # Vardoz 2013-04-06 15:57
This is the ongoing destruction of our environment by negligent polluters whose only consideration are their profits. Our fate is at the mercy of these insane people who don't give a damn about our health safety and welfare. They depend on our apathy.
+16 # sjporter 2013-04-06 17:51
Last July Rolling Stone magazine published an article by Bill McKibben on Global Warming's Terrifying New Math. Citing data from the most advanced research and modeling of climate scientists, to have any chance of keeping our planet from warming OVER 2 degrees C (3.6 F) humans can burn some 565 gigatons of carbon by mid-Century.
The terrifying number in this case is 2,795 gigatons:
"This number is the scariest of all – one that, for the first time, meshes the political and scientific dimensions of our dilemma. It was highlighted last summer by the Carbon Tracker Initiative, a team of London financial analysts and environmentalis ts who published a report in an effort to educate investors about the possible risks that climate change poses to their stock portfolios. The number describes the amount of carbon already contained in the proven coal and oil and gas reserves of the fossil-fuel companies, and the countries (think Venezuela or Kuwait) that act like fossil-fuel companies. In short, it's the fossil fuel we're currently planning to burn. And the key point is that this new number – 2,795 – is higher than 565. Five times higher."
+11 # sjporter 2013-04-06 18:00
Then sign Credo's Pledge to Resist. The pledge allows huge leeway for people to do as much as they can, in a way they feel comfortable with. To our politicians, the bigger the number of Pledge to Resist signers, the scarier the number is.
+14 # JohnBoanerges 2013-04-06 18:53
Confine the heavy hitters to a warehouse and create an atmosphere equal to that of the most polluted areas they release upon innocent people and, when they are "done", drag out the scum and replace with the government heavy hitters. Over and over until the problem is "solved". Yeah, Monsanto is second in the rotation.
+9 # grouchy 2013-04-06 19:57
Hey, these guys are getting good at really messing things up! I wish them the worst of luck in continuing this trend. Also, I'd like them to get some mega-fines for their efforts too! And make sure they truly clean up each and every atom of the crud.
+15 # unitedwestand 2013-04-06 20:37
The irresponsible business practices by the fossil fuel companies is beyond acceptance. I wouldn't be surprised if some of these "accidents" are not caused by them hiring people at lower wages that are not qualified, or lack of enough employees in order to cut costs
I've never heard of solar panels (or other renewable energy sources) ever endangering a single person or ruining the eco system, rivers, air, grounds, property, lungs and health of people or any other living thing, (okay, windmills sometimes kill a few birds).

Say NO to fossil fuels. Say NO to XL PIPELINE.
+5 # flippancy 2013-04-07 11:46
Well, wind farms are a big danger to birds, but that problem is solvable.

The only way to solve the problems caused by fossil fuels is to require every executive to live within one mile of their mistakes and only be allowed to dring the water they've polluted.
+4 # flippancy 2013-04-07 11:42
Every major oil company shopuld be required to put up a trillion dollar cash bond to cover the problems they cause.
+1 # fishmother 2013-04-07 14:26
back to back good ideas flipancy!

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