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Murphy Oil leak another example of poor emergency response

November 16th, 2010

Refinery says ‘no off-site impact’ but won’t reveal how much pollution was released

NEW ORLEANS, La. – Residents in Meraux near Murphy Oil ended their Thanksgiving weekend with news of a sulfur dioxide leak at the refinery.

The Saturday morning leak resulted in a brief shutdown of some equipment, but the refinery chose not to send out a public alert, though the amount of sulfur dioxide was enough to warrant an accident report to Louisiana’s Department of Environmental Quality.

With sulfur dioxide, any leak of more than 500 pounds requires that the refinery must report it to state and local authorities. Still, Murphy Oil refused to disclose the amount to the media when questioned and local authorities took no action to alert the public about the accident.

It’s just one of several refinery-related incidents in St. Bernard Parish reported to Louisiana Bucket Brigade’s Oil Spill Crisis Map over Thanksgiving weekend.

Nov. 24, one of LDEQ’s monitoring stations in the Vista neighborhood of Chalmette recorded sulfur dioxide spikes over the new health standard of 75 parts per billion for a one-hour reading. (See the report here.)

Nov. 25, a report to the map says Murphy Oil’s petrochemical testing laboratory spilled hydrocarbons into the local canal though the refinery doesn’t have the proper permits to do so. “The last time residents called the fire department about oil and gasoline odors from refinery discharges into the canal, the fire department claimed the neighbors were placing cooking oil in the canal,” the report said. (See the full report here.)

According to LABB’s Refinery Accident Database, Murphy Oil is one of the bigger polluters in the state, sending 1,074,392 pounds and 5,436,277 gallons of pollutants into the air and water from 2005-2009. The refinery is also notoriously bad at reporting these accidents – 82 of the 226 accidents from 2005-2009 were listed as “No Information Given” on the reports submitted to LDEQ.

"St. Bernard's emergency response system protects polluters and fails the residents," said Anne Rolfes, LABB's Founding Director. "Murphy has a chronic accident problem and the parish lets them get away with it -- all because Murphy puts money in their pockets. No amount of money is worth the health problems these accidents cause."

About the Louisiana Bucket Brigade:
The Louisiana Bucket Brigade is an environmental health and justice organization supporting neighborhoods’ use of grassroots action to create informed, sustainable communities free from industrial pollution.

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