By Steve Dillow
PV-SB Group Conservation Co-Chair
“We were really, really lucky… [This explosion was] a near miss…It could have been much more catastrophic… If I were in the community I absolutely would be concerned.”
– US Chemical Safety Board Chairperson Vannessa Allen Sutherland
This was from a report by CBS News about the Feb.18, 2015 explosion at the Torrance Refinery. The wind that day was westward, so many of us were covered with the ash that rained down all the way to the ocean. So that would have been the “kill zone” had the MHF tank been ruptured. But the hazard could have just as easily been to anywhere in the South Bay, including Torrance, Gardena, Carson, the County Strip, Hawthorne, Lomita or any of the beach cities.
According to the United Steel Workers International, “No industrial process risks more lives from a single accident than does… alkylation using HF,” because HF (and MHF) form a ground-hugging dense vapor HF cloud upon release.
And so far nothing has changed except our awareness. Thanks to local grassroots organizers there is a growing movement toward banning MHF at the refinery. By the time this issue goes to press 100,000 educational door hangers will have been distributed. Volunteers are to follow up canvassing neighborhoods and recruiting more volunteers. Our Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi has introduced a bill (AB 1645) in the state Assembly to ban MHF from all California refineries. (Only Torrance and Valero in Wilmington currently use this process.) And the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) has a proposed rule (Rule 1410) to do the same. These are our current hopes to protect our lives and safety from a known and preventable disaster.
But the refineries are fighting against them, and they have many resources on their side. Our lives and safety take a back seat to their profits.
Keep up with the issue at https://www.facebook.com/BanMHF or at https://www.traasouthbay.com/ . And please write to the AQMD to show community support for a ban of MHF. Information and forms can be found on the website, as well as a signup for the TRAA bi-monthly Newsletter.