Local/State

6.3-million gallons spilled at NJ refinery

Friday, February 24, 2012
Refinery spill in Paulsboro, N.J. Refinery spill in Paulsboro, N.J.

A massive oil spill at the closed Paulsboro Refinery in South Jersey is sending sickening fumes over the region. One of the hardest hit areas is in Delaware County, where school children are inhaling the smell.

The spill happened around 1:00 p.m. Thursday at PBF Energy's Paulsboro refinery at 800 Billingsport Road.

At several schools in the Chichester School District, children were reporting feeling ill from breathing the fumes. The school district says no one has been sent home sick because of the fumes, but they have kept the children indoors as a precaution and an early dismal was called for some schools.

"They took us to the gym and the entire first floor went to the cafeteria, the second floor went to the gymnasium," said student Sebastian Sharp.

6.3 million gallons of crude oil spilled out of a 12-million gallon tank at the Paulsboro Refinery. The spill is being contained by the berms around the tank. On Thursday workers sprayed foam on top of the oil to keep the odor down, however the rain overnight broke up the foam. Now, the odor is wafting over the entire Delaware Valley.

Fumes are being reported as far south as Wilmington, Delaware and police departments throughout the area are being inundated with complaints and concerns about the smell.

Action News spoke with a representative from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and they say these fumes may be irritating but they are not toxic. They may cause some minor eye and respiratory irritation, but there should not be any long term health effects from breathing the fumes.

In a statement released Thursday, the New Jersey DEP says the spill "is not expected to impact the Delaware River or local water supplies."

The statement went on to explain, "Petroleum products have a low odor threshold, meaning they can be smelled readily even at very low levels that do not cause serious health risks."

New Jersey Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno and the head of the state environmental protection agency toured the site on Friday morning. They say there's nothing to be alarmed about.

"We have a leak, it is an unexpected leak, but it is all being completely managed on every level the way they've been trained for years," Guadagno said.

Parents came running, fearing the problem was the nearby Sunoco rrefinery in Marcus Hook.

"Well, we rushed home because we didn't know if they were going to evacuate or not. We live right here, so, you never know," said Jennifer Hughes of Marcus Hook.

The spill is in the process of being cleaned up. An outside company has been called in to pump all the spilled oil out of the containment basin. That is a process that will take a couple of days.

Meanwhile, Delaware officials are asking people to stop calling 911 to report the odor.  Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection says the odor isn't dangerous, but they are advising the elderly and people with breathing problems to limit their outdoor activities until this mess is cleaned up.

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new jersey, pennsylvania, delaware, oil spill, local/state
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