Environment & Science

AQMD reviewing new toxic chemical leak at Torrance Refinery

An explosion at an ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance caused four minor injuries on Wednesday, February 18, 2015.
An explosion at an ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance caused four minor injuries on Wednesday, February 18, 2015.
Daniella Segura/KPCC

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Air quality inspectors were at the Torrance Refinery Monday following up on a toxic chemical spill over the weekend.  Five gallons of Modified Hydrofluoric Acid leaked from a hose as it was being transferred from a tanker truck to a container at the Torrance Refinery.

When exposed to air, the acid can turn into a ground-hugging fog that can travel for miles and hurt or kill those in its path. In this case a worker doused the leaking vapor with water and the chemical stayed within refinery grounds.

The spill happened at 8:17 Saturday morning. Soon after, Torrance Fire Department posted to Facebook and Twitter that it was responding to a leak at the refinery. It did not name the chemical. And because the leak was small, Torrance did not use its citywide notification system, a spokesman said.

 

Sally Hayati, a retired scientist who has studied the chemical and pressed for it to be banned, says the city didn’t do enough to alert the public.

"Personally, I’d like to see the siren sound at every release and I’d like the emergency alerts to go out immediately to all people," she said.

The refinery owner did not respond to a request for comment about the release.

The Air Quality Management District’s board will review a proposal to add more safety controls over the chemical. That’s coming up in February.