Watch TRAA’s short, videos that ask the question, “How realistic is it for schools and businesses surrounding refineries using hydrofluoric acid to shelter-in-place during an accidental chemical release?” The videos draw from multiple sources, including informational training videos produced by FEMA and the Department of the Army. Decide for yourself — Is this the future you want for the South Bay if Rule 1410 fails to ban MHF?

MHF Danger Zones

Public Safety Warning
Torrance (ToRC) refinery: Representation of the ground-hugging acid cloud from 50,000 lb. of MHF very nearly released during the 2015 explosion. The (slight) wind that day was to the west. Calm days are the worst case scenario, as it means a denser acid cloud. Much of the county is at risk.
Valero-Wilmington Danger Zone
Wilmington (Valero) refinery: EPA Worst Case Guidelines allow us to estimate the worst possible impact of the release of 55,000 lb. MHF from a single acid settler tank. Serious and irreversible injuries are possible with short-term exposure up to 17 miles from the refinery. Wind determines the exposure.

The Danger of MHF

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Southern California has a life-threatening problem. We’re at risk from hundreds of tons of one of the world’s most dangerous chemicals. Two refineries in the South Bay (in Torrance and Wilmington) use hydrofluoric acid (HF) in their alkylation process. 

These are the only HF refineries in California. All others chose to use a safe alternative. Hundreds of thousands of homes surrounded the refineries when HF units were added in the late 60’s and 70’s.  The public got wise to HF dangers after a similar chemical killed 25,000 people in 1984 (Bhopal) and a Torrance HF near miss occurred in 1987. HF was issued an eviction notice in 1990.

But HF was saved in the nick of time by Modified HF (MHF). “It falls safely to the ground!” promised industry and our government. But the public was hoodwinked. Following the Torrance 2015 explosion, which nearly released 50,000 lb. MHF, investigations by local scientists in TRAA uncovered the facts: MHF is 99% HF and NO SAFER.

Like HF, MHF forms a ground-hugging cloud upon release that can drift for miles, causing injury and death. HF mitigation measures like water sprays and barriers, are ineffective even when fully operational. Worse, such systems are prone to damage and poor maintenance, like all refinery equipment. Given high population densities and an inability to quickly evacuate, mass casualties can result from an MHF release — wind direction determines who dies.

What’s Being Done

TRAA’s research prompted MHF investigations by the US Chemical Safety Board,  South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), and US EPA, which arrived at similar findings. SCAQMD responded by proposing Rule 1410 to regulate MHF alkylation. SCAQMD reported their expert conclusion in 2017: claims that MHF is safer than HF are UNPROVEN. Public safety requires MHF be replaced with a safe alternative.

Despite this, the political appointees on the AQMD Board directed staff in 11/2018 to cut a deal with the refineries, possibly in a memorandum of understanding, not a Rule. If (useless) MHF plus improved mitigation systems can meet a (TBD) performance standard there will be NO MHF BAN, the Board directed.


Call to action

We need to redirect the SCAQMD Board! Decades of government collaboration with industry, rationalizing the continued use of HF alkylation in LA County, must end.

The SCAQMD is on thin ice: for decades it (incompetently or intentionally) accepted industry’s fraudulent claims for MHF safety. SCAQMD’s own experts now admit the error.

The Board’s direction to rely on mitigation is a POLITICAL decision, contrary to all expert findings by SCAQMD staff and its own Consultants. Densely-populated Los Angeles County is the last place on earth HF alkylation should be used. It’s time for the two HF refineries to play by the same rules as the 8 other CA refineries. Three affordable and viable MHF alternatives exist.

This contact form will send your message to every member of the SCAQMD board at once. You can use the sample message in the comment field below; or you can personalize your message as you see fit. And of course, you can call or send a letter to the board; to do so, click here for the contact information. Thank you for fighting to keep Los Angeles safe!


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