Massive Explosion at Philly Refinery on Friday, Toxic Gas Release Narrowly Averted

A massive explosion at an old oil refinery shook South Philadephia early Friday morning, causing the city to issue orders for nearby residents to shelter in place, and the fire, while controlled, continued to burn into Saturday until the refinery was able to turn off a valve, according to Philadelphia fire and emergency management officials.  The explosion occurred after one of a series of gas blasts at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery sent a fireball into the air and “rocked people awake” for miles at around 4:30 a.m.  Four workers at the plant were injured, but the blast, according to Reuters, “renewed concerns about the oil industry’s use of a highly toxic chemical to make high-octane gasoline at plants in densely populated areas.”

Why  This Matters:  Aging refineries and industrial facilities sited in large urban areas are a real risk and their safety must be very closely monitored and they should potentially be closed if they do not meet strict safety standards.

Indeed, one member of the Board told the local NBC news affiliate that the region dodged a bullet and that if another chemical had been involved, the explosion could have been a catastrophe to human life.  We need to know what other facilities like this are at risk and to examine the impacts of facilities like these on the mostly poor and minority communities in which they are located.  This facility dates back to the 19th century — it opened a year after the Civil War ended.

The Explosion Could Have Been A Real Disaster.  

According to the local NBC news station, a “plume of thick, black smoke billowed east from the large complex near Philadelphia International Airport and over portions of South Philadelphia, the Delaware River and into South Jersey.” Though city health officials said the area was safe, the smoke could be dangerous, according to an air-quality expert. “Immediate exposure can trigger asthma and other issues,” he cautioned. “If it were me, what I would do is leave the area for as much of the day as possible.”

Up Next

One Cool Thing: A Breath of Fresh Air

One Cool Thing: A Breath of Fresh Air

Delegates attending the COP26 conference in Glasgow will get to see a very cool display during their stay. So cool, in fact, that it’s been frozen since 1765. Artist Wayne Binitie and scientists of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) have retrieved an Antarctic time capsule containing the world’s purest air. The pocket of atmosphere was […]

Continue Reading 204 words
EU Broke Air Pollution Limits in 2020 Despite COVID

EU Broke Air Pollution Limits in 2020 Despite COVID

By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer The European Environment Agency (EEA) found that a majority of EU countries broke at least one air pollution limit last year — despite COVID-19 lockdowns. In addition, 17 EU countries failed to stay below ozone pollution targets, which directly influence global warming; and eight EU countries failed to stay […]

Continue Reading 278 words
Jakarta Residents Win Court Case; President Must Address Air Pollution

Jakarta Residents Win Court Case; President Must Address Air Pollution

By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer An Indonesian district court ruled yesterday that Indonesian President Joko Widodo has neglected Jakarta’s residents right to clean air. In a unanimous ruling in favor of the 32 residents who brought the case, the Central Jakarta District Court ordered Widodo, and six other top officials deemed negligent, to improve […]

Continue Reading 397 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.