State safety regulators are investigating a leak of potentially deadly modified hydrofluoric acid at the Torrance ExxonMobil refinery this week in the latest accident at the aging plant to raise questions about the company’s ability to operate safely in a densely populated area.
Sunday’s leak was a “significant incident,” the Torrance Fire Department said.
It followed a explosion in February that Cal/OSHA said was caused by ExxonMobil’s “willful” failure to repair a piece of equipment for almost a decade even though the company was aware it could cause a life-threatening explosion, the Daily Breeze reported.
The state issued 19 safety violations and fines in excess of $565,000 following the blast. ExxonMobil is appealing.
Cal/OSHA has confirmed that its investigators are probing another accident at the plant but declined further comment, according to The Breeze.
The leak occurred in the early hours of Sunday morning from a 3-inch nozzle as a truck containing hydrofluoric acid unloaded its contents into a vessel at the plant, according to a Fire Department report cited by the newspaper. During the operation, “a small leak” was discovered at a rate of 10 drops per minute.
The leak was fixed by 6 p.m. Sunday, Assistant Fire Chief Martin Serna said. That means the acid leaked for at least 15 hours, The Breeze reported.
City officials downplayed the incident, according to The Breeze.
“It was handled and resolved very quickly,” the newspaper quoted City Manager LeRoy Jackson as saying. “In those situations there are safety steps in place.”
—City News Service
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