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Southern Indiana oil refinery had carcinogenic gas escape

Southern Indiana oil refinery had carcinogenic gas escape
Published: May. 18, 2022 at 7:12 PM CDT
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POSEY CO., Ind. (WFIE) - A Posey County oil refinery is still above “federal action levels” after its annual rate spiked following a Benzene leak last summer.

Fuel at the CountryMark Refinery goes all over the state of Indiana, according to officials, and it’s the only one of its kind.

CountryMark only has the one refinery to its name, according to officials, so when emissions spiked at their refinery in July of 2021, Vice President of Operations Kim Smock tells 14 News it was all hands on deck.

“We had a level instrument in one of our processing units that had malfunctioned. It was caught, repaired immediately, and the refinery operation was really not hampered or hindered,” says Smock.

When that level instrument malfunctioned, Benzene vapors reached the fence around the property.

The fence has about 20 passive monitors attached to it.

The monitors sit for two weeks, are tested, then replaced.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, exposure to Benzene over long periods of time could cause adverse health effects, including cancer.

Smock says they didn’t even get close.

“This rule is meant to monitor these levels at an exceedingly low level,” says Smock, “so nine micrograms per meter cubed. To put it in context, is less than the exposure from one cigarette.”

The CountryMark Refinery, at its highest point, sat at 42 micrograms per meter cubed over that two-week period in July, according to the report from the Environmental Integrity Project.

Company officials say they weren’t near the levels the EPA says can cause cancer, and Smock says they have done multiple repairs and upgrades now to ensure safety.

“You know, we’re talking about detecting these compounds at such low levels that it doesn’t, we don’t allow it to become a concern,” says Smock.

Because the federal action level is a rolling annual average, however, the refinery is still sitting over where it should be.

Smock says they’re looking to be back to full compliance very soon.

She says every reporting period this year has been under the action level.

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