TORRANCE (CBSLA) — Stakeholders in two refineries in the South Bay will be urged within the next five years to phase out the use of a chemical that can cause severe burns if released.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District’s Refinery Committee met Saturday to discuss the health effects from exposure to hydrofluoric acid, used at the Torrance Refinery Company and the Valero Wilmington Refinery.
Hydrofluoric acid, according to an outline presentation prepared for the meeting and obtained by the Daily Breeze, can form dangerous white vapor clouds if released. Exposure requires specialized medical treatment. In both liquid and vapor form, according to the agency, the chemical can cause “severe burns to all parts of the body.”
The SCAQMD presentation recommended enhancement of mitigation efforts and a phase-out of the toxic chemical in as soon as five years, drastically reducing its earlier eight-year timeframe.
The agency said support and opposition for their proposal for an eventual ban was split between the approximately 100 speakers who testified Saturday.
“Refineries assert they cannot convert to emerging technologies because they are not commercially available and proven,” the agency noted in its report, adding refineries also suggested they would be hit by a diminished returns on investment, giving market advantage to other refineries. Consumers, they said, would see an increase in gas prices as a result.
Opponents meanwhile cite serious health concerns despite the use of an additive meant to reduce the impact of accidental chemical exposure.
The refinery committee directed staff to reach a consensus with key stakeholders and report back within 90 days.
If a consensus cannot be reached, the committee said it will direct staff on how to proceed.