Smoke from Wisconsin refinery explosion poses health risk

Evacuation order lifted after refinery blast leaves several hurt
Modal Trigger Smoke rises from the Husky Energy oil refinery after an explosion and fire. AP
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29 April, 2018

Superior Mayor Jim Paine said at a news conference that his community was getting back to normal after Thursday's explosion and fire at the Husky Energy refinery. Superior police later tweeted that the fire had reignited and urged residents living within a one-mile radius of the refinery to leave.

An explosion at a Wisconsin oil refinery chased residents from their homes on Thursday, and now, pollution experts say there were probably all kinds of toxins in the smoke that blew downwind.

"On April 26, EPA deployed emergency responders to support local and state agencies at the Superior Refining Co. fire in Superior, Wis. EPA has conducted air monitoring to support city evacuation determinations and continues to collect air data".

At least 20 people were injured in the incident, the local ABC affiliate reported.

He says an employee and a contractor were hospitalized overnight but are expected to be released Friday. All of the refinery's workers were accounted for, Husky said.

Reporter Emma Rechenberg from KBJR recorded images of the smoke billowing over a large area and loud explosions in the distance as officers evacuated the area.

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Paine said he was minutes from issuing a public statement Thursday night that spelled out the precautions the city was taking to keep the hydrogen fluoride contained when, at 6:42 p.m., the fire department reported that it had extinguished the blaze.

At the time of the explosion, crews were in the process of shutting down the refinery so that repairs could be made to the decades-old facility, WDIO said. She said the extent of injuries is unknown.

David Morrison, an on-scene coordinator for the EPA, said technicians have been monitoring air conditions in the area around the refinery since the fire began.

Calgary-Alberta-based Husky Energy refinery bought the refinery from Indianapolis-based Calumet Specialty Products Partners a year ago for over $490 million.

Roth said the fire did not spread to the huge Enbridge crude oil terminal across the street.

The refinery, built in 1950, employs about 180 people in the production of gasoline, diesel fuel, motor oils and asphalt, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined Calumet Superior LLC $21,000 over emergency response and flammable liquids violations in 2015. Calumet Superior operates as a subsidiary of Calumet Specialty Products Partners, which sold the plant to Husky Energy past year.


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