Valero Refining-Meraux has agreed to pay $47,357 in fines to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to settle allegations that it did not follow federally mandated safety procedures during an April 10, 2020, incident that resulted in a fire and minor injuries to two workers, as well as the release of several flammable gases, reported the New Orleans Advocate.
Valero officials reported last year that as much as 5,500 pounds of sulphur dioxide was released during the accident at the refinery.
On that day, an operator discovered that a pressure safety valve at the plant was not seated properly, according to the EPA consent agreement signed by Valero on March 31.
Workers believed they could get the valve reseated by closing another valve upstream, but an operator instead closed a valve that was downstream, which increased pressure on the line, causing one of the valves to rupture, the agreement said.
The EPA said the valve operator failed to implement Valero’s safety system bypass procedure, resulting in the accident and in violation of the law.
Valero also entered into a separate settlement agreement with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality on Feb. 21 that required it to pay a $11,223 fine to settle allegations identified in a 2017 inspection and a 2019 review of company files. The DEQ found that the company:
- Violated limits on the release of pollutants into the Mississippi River,
- Failed to follow proper testing procedures in monitoring pollutant releases
- Failed to file proper records for pollutant release tests
- Failed to test for nitrogen and phosphorus at some wastewater disposal outfalls
- Discharged oily fluids into the river without permission
- Improperly discarded some records of tests of wastewater acidity.
Also included in the settlement were six violations of stormwater sampling regulations dating back to 2014, and three incidents where small amounts of oil or gasoline were spilled in the river in 2016 and 2018.