Spill results in multi-agency response

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry A City of Warren Fire Department engine is on standby at United Refining Company Tuesday night after a hazardous materials call at 10 p.m. According to the company, a small tank failed, releasing a partially-processed crude oil product.

There was a reportedly small and contained release of some processed oil products at United Refinery Tuesday night, resulting in multiple agencies responding to help or evaluate.

City of Warren Fire Department responded to a hazardous materials call late Tuesday.

“A small tank at one of the company’s process units failed at approximately 10 p.m. Tuesday night, resulting in a spill of partially processed crude oil,” United Spokesperson Rob Kaemmerer said Wednesday. “The spill was contained on-site and no hazardous materials were released to the environment, including the Allegheny River, during the incident.”

In addition to the fire department, Warren County Public Safety, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Fish and Boat Commission, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency were notified.

“All required notifications were made to the appropriate state and federal agencies,” Kaemmerer said.

“The DEP Emergency Response team was called out to the United Refining Company (URC) last night after it was reported at a discharge of an unknown quantity of FCC Charge (blend of Gas Oil, Distillates and H2S) from a steel stock tank at United Refining Company,” DEP Northwest Community Relations Coordinator Tom Decker said.

“The incident occurred while a United employee was attempting to restart the FCC unit to bring it back online after being shut down.”

“An apparent slug of water in the FCC Charge tank caused the tank to overpressure when it was heated and resulted in the top of the tank coming apart at the seam,” Decker said. “The pressurized contents of the tank then erupted out of the top of the tank. A portion of the product ended up within a second tank that serves as containment around the FCC Charge stock tank, however a majority of the material ended up outside of the containment given the pressure that the product was under when released. The stock tank has a capacity of 21,000 barrels. URC estimated that approximately 500 barrels were released based off tank levels before and after the release.”

“Product was viewed entering storm drains nearby which led to the URC’s wastewater treatment plant,” Decker said. “Product had also migrated to an underground separator/sump located southeast of (and at the same elevation as) the FCC unit. A vac truck was removing the product from this separator and more significant pools.”

The fire department responded to the 10 p.m. call in an on-site standby basis, sending multiple engines and an ambulance to the south end of Parker Street.

“They had an issue with a discharge tank,” Chief Dave Krogler said of the situation at United. “They had some product similar to crude leak from a tank and it got into the dike.”

There was an initial report of a fire, but there was no fire when firefighters arrived, Krogler said.

In the end, the department’s assistance was not required, he said. “Everything was handled pretty quickly.”

The fire department personnel were released and on their way back to station at 11:43 p.m.

“The company wishes to extend our sincere thanks to area first responders providing standby support during the event,” Kaemmerer said. “Clean-up is underway and is expected to be substantially complete within 48 hours.”

The fire department and DEP were called again Wednesday morning.

“We got a call… a report of an oil sheen on the river,” Krogler said.

Department officers confirmed the sheen at multiple downstream locations.

“It relates to last night’s incident,” he said. “One of their oil-water separators… discharged some of the product into the river.”

“They were aware of it and they had already contained it or controlled it,” Krogler said.

“A sheen was also seen on the Allegheny River,” Decker said. “The DEP’s Clean Water Program is investigating the source of the sheen to ensure appropriate response efforts are conducted. URC must submit a site characterization report to DEP for review by the end of the year. The site characterization report will detail the extent of the contamination and include a discussion of remedial options.”


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