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
The Danger of MHF
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.
This RULE CONCEPT is wholly UNACCEPTABLE.
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.
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