Category Archives: Toxic smoke

Valero emissions alerts – personal update with photos from Marilyn Bardet

An email from Marilyn Bardet, Benicia

From: Marilyn Bardet
Subject: About Solano ALERT notice: Valero’s Scrubber releasing toxic particulate matter–pet coke
Date: March 24, 2019 at 8:16:22 AM PDT

Good morning all,

I just received both a phone call and email from Solano ALERT at 6:59 a.m. regarding the ongoing problem at the refinery that’s resulting in continuous release of PM from the Scrubber, (main stack). I see emails circulating now among Benicians— and so you’ve all probably rec’d the advisory by now to “stay indoors, with doors and windows sealed, if you have asthma or other respiratory condition”. The advisory declares that they’ve tested the pet coke emissions and did not find (dangerous levels) of heavy metals. (Which is not to say there are no heavy metals being dispersed over the last ten days).

My concern:
This problem has been happening since at least March 13th, when I first saw the plume, having been alerted by a friend who had called to report its smokey color.  That day, following her phone call, I drove along  Park Road and Industrial Way (east of the refinery’s processing block) to see it for myself and take pictures.

The release of dark smoke from the Scrubber signals an “up stream” on-going problem with the coker unit. My question: is the coker still operating or has it been shut down? If it’s not operating, when was the unit shut down?

Yesterday, I was driving over the Benicia Bridge toward town and saw the plume and again noticed the smokey color, so went directly to Industrial Way to take pictures. I made a 1 minute video, holding my camera outside my car window to get it. This meant that I could see and smell the smoke— a very dirty, nasty smell. Anyone working in the Industrial Park yesterday downwind of the Scrubber  would have been greatly exposed.  I could smell the gases inside my car when I rolled up the window.

You’ll notice that in the still shots from yesterday, the plume rises, drifts and falls. . . the wind was light, the molecules heavy!

I can’t send the video via email, because the file is too large, but Constance will be able to circulate it.

I want to know about the test for heavy metals and which ones they did find and in what concentrations. Was there any nickel found? Nickel is a known carcinogen when inhaled.

All it would take would be a shift in the wind to bring the PM into our neighborhoods.

— Marilyn

The following pictures I took on March 13th,  between 11:33 a.m. and 11:35 a.m (click to enlarge):

The following pictures I took on March 23, at 2:21 pm
(click to enlarge):

Rachel Maddow: Train explosion, collision (DRAMATIC VIDEO)

Repost from MSNBC, Rachel Maddow Show
[Editor: Incredible video footage of two early October train crashes, and excellent Rachel Maddow commentary.  (Live video of the train crash at minute 2:10.)  Apologies for the 20-second commercial ad that precedes the video.  – RS]

Train explosion, collision demonstrate oil shipping dangers

Rachel Maddow, 10/07/14


Rachel Maddow reports on a train derailment and subsequent fire in Canada, which follows on the heels of a dramatic train crash in Louisiana as the oil and rail industries try to push back the deadline for new federal safetly requirements.

LATEST DERAILMENT: Train derails in Canada; oil spill, explosion; village evacuated

Repost from The Canadian Press
[Editor: Every source I can find uses the phrase “petroleum distillates,” but no source further identifies the substance that caught fire and exploded.  Is this a “news blackout”?  …OCTOBER 8 UPDATE (CBC News) “According to the provincial government, of the six cars carrying hazardous materials, two had sodium hydroxide and two had hydrochloric acid. The other two had petroleum distillates, which included a Varsol-type substance.” …Still pretty sketchy. 

Later follow-up reports:

Saskatchewan derailment cars same as Lac Megantic MetroNews CanadaOct 9, 2014  WADENA, Sask. – CN Rail says the tanker cars that derailed and caught fire this week near a small community in Saskatchewan are the same type as those …

Saskatchewan derailment reveals Canada’s broken-rail problems CBC.caOct 10, 2014  Saskatchewan derailment reveals Canada’s broken-rail problems … looking at state of tracks, equipment · Major train derailment and fire near Wadena, Sask.

– RS]

Train derails in central Saskatchewan; village evacuated

By Clare Clancy, October 7, 2014
Saskatchewan train derailment
A CN freight train carrying dangerous goods derailed in central Saskatchewan, near the town of Wadena, on Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014. (The Canadian Press/Liam Richards)

WADENA, Sask. — A CN freight train carrying dangerous goods derailed in central Saskatchewan Tuesday sending plumes of thick black smoke into the air and displacing residents of a tiny nearby hamlet.

The derailment happened near the community of Clair, which has a population of about 50. Police told those people to leave their homes and also evacuated farms near the scene.

CN spokesman Jim Feeny said the train was made up of three locomotives pulling 100 rail cars and that 26 of them derailed.

He said the fire came from petroleum distillates, which spilled from two of the derailed cars.

The fire had “diminished” as of Tuesday evening, Feeny said, but was still burning.

Clair is about 190 kilometres east of Saskatoon near the community of Wadena.

Alison Squires, who is the publisher of the Wadena News, went to the fire and said she has never seen anything like it in the 13 years she has lived in the area.

“I’ve seen derailments, but this is a pretty bad one,” she said. “You could see … this huge plume of black smoke. When I got there, there was a small explosion. The smoke is too thick to see what cars are involved.”

She added that there was a detour going north to pass the derailment, but not one going south.

“They are assuming the smoke is toxic,” she said.

A witness told radio station CKOM that the flames were at least 30 meters high at one point.

“The smoke is blowing from west to east and there is quite a bit of it,” Peter Baran told the station as he watched the fire from a highway.

Pictures from the scene suggested the derailment took place in a sparsely populated area. They showed the smoke billowing high into the sky.

The Transportation Safety Board said it was deploying a team of investigators to the site. CN sent in a hazardous materials team to clean up the area.

The railway industry has been under increased scrutiny since July 2013, when 47 people died after a train carrying oil derailed and exploded in downtown Lac-Megantic, Que.

Adam Scott, a spokesman for the advocacy group Environmental Defence, said Canada is experiencing a boom in the use of railways to transport petroleum products.

“The freight rail lines actually go right through the centre of almost every major urban centre in the entire country including small towns, communities across the country, so the risk of accidents is significant,” he said.

“The government has introduced measures, but they don’t go nearly far enough in terms of safety.”

He said rail companies are not required to publicly disclose the types of hazardous materials being transported on trains.

“It’s unacceptable,” he said. “The municipalities themselves, the communities have no power, no control, and in this case no information even over what’s being run through the rail lines.”

In August, the Transportation Safety Board issued a report into the Lac-Megantic tragedy that called for improved safety measures and cited inadequate oversight by Transport Canada. One of the criticisms brought forward was a lack of inspections.

Harry Gow, president of advocacy group Transport Action Canada, said the derailment in Saskatchewan shows the need for more inspectors.

“I would say that if one wants to ensure safety in moving hazardous goods, one has to have inspectors who are empowered to do the work, that are trained to do more than just check the company’s paperwork, and are sufficiently numerous and well-resourced to get out on the ground and see what’s going on,” he said.

“The incident in Saskatchewan today is fortunately not occurring in a large town,” he said. “But that doesn’t excuse the lack of oversight by Transport Canada.”