State DEP monitoring United malfunction

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has been monitoring a release from United Refining Company in Warren.

On Friday, residents noticed a strong odor in the area of Warren’s East End.

The company issued press releases explaining the cause of the leak and reassuring those smelling the odor that the release did not pose a public health hazard. The company said the roof of a tank malfunctioned under the weight of snow, compounded by rain and warm temperatures.

On Monday, the company announced that the appropriate steps had been taken to abate the problem.

Still, there were areas where the odor was still noticeable on Tuesday.

“Over the last three days, the DEP has been monitoring closely the situation in Warren as a result of a malfunction of a floating roof on a tank at the United Refining Company facility,” Northwest Region Community Relations Coordinator Tom Decker said Tuesday. “Emissions and odors from the material in the tank, identified as naphtha, are controlled by the seals on the floating roof.”

Those seals were not working properly due to the malfunction.

Solving the problem was not just about fixing the roof, the company also moved material out of the tank and took steps to knock down the vapors on top of the naphtha.

“United Refining began pumping the tank down after learning of the malfunction,” Decker said. “On Sunday evening, at the urging of DEP, United Refining applied foam to the surface of the material in the tank as a means to control the emissions.”

“The draining of the tank will continue to take some time, but the foam is working as it should,” Decker said. “DEP staff has followed up with residents who had logged odor complaints and conducted monitoring in the area on Sunday and Monday.”

“Complaints appear to have subsided following application of the foam, but isolated reports of odors continue to come in,” he said.

He encouraged people to continue to call in reports.

“Following application of foam to the tank on Sunday evening, the potential for odors or emissions from the malfunctioning tank decreased significantly as did the potential for inhalation by the general public,” Decker said. “We ask that your readers continue to call in complaints so that we can keep track of them.”

While the department wants to continue to track the situation, Decker indicated that those who inhale the fumes do not need to take “immediate preventative measures.”

“The monitoring conducted by DEP around the Warren area in response to the incident did not indicate the need for immediate preventative measures based on inhalation,” Decker said. “The DEP will continue its investigation as to how this malfunction occurred and what actions United Refining took to promptly address the situation.”

“It is too early to speculate what, if any, legal action or penalties may be appropriate,” Decker said.

United’s tank wasn’t the only one with problems related to the weight of wet snow.

A “hazardous condition” was reported in the area of Church Street in North Warren early Tuesday morning.

North Warren Volunteer Fire Department Chief Shawn Jones responded to the call. He assured the resident who made the call that the strong odor was from vapors escaping from oil tanks in the areas.

He said those vapors, when forced out of tanks, flow downward and collect in the valley.


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