Evergreen Leak Probe Continues

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A July 6 incident that caused the evacuation of approximately 70 workers at the Evergreen Oil Inc. rerefinery in Newark, Calif., remains on the radar of state regulators as a consumer advocacy group continues to urge the shutdown of the plant.

Originally reported as a leak of superheated oil, the incident actually involved the escape of ethylene glycol, a heat transferfluid used in the rerefining process. Thattriggered the emergency evacuation and prompted a warning to the community to expect a wave of strong chemical odors from the leak.

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State Department of Toxic Substances Control investigators were still in the field doing quite a bit of fact finding, Sue Laney, a DTSC enforcement officer, told Lube Report. The area of the plant where the July 6 leak occurred is not required to have a permit from DTSC to operate.

Evergreen Oil handles hazardous waste materials, including used motor oil, antifreeze and other toxic waste, according to the company’s website.

Once waste oil has been rerefined, it is no longer considered hazardous, and therefore falls outside DTSC jurisdiction. That doesnt mean that [the states] interest stops there, Laney said. Were still looking to see what kinds of licenses are required.

According to George Lamont, vice president of operations at the plant, jurisdiction rests with the city of Newark. He was not aware of any questions pending about the July 6 incident.

City Manager John Becker concurs, saying as far as the July 6 incident is concerned it is basically over and done with. He noted that the company still has a large number of permits and ongoing work to recover from a March 29, 2011 fire that forced a shutdown of the rerefining operation for several months.

As for the July 6 incident, he said that a pipe burst, but the containment area the plant had in place did what it was supposed to do. Our concern from a city perspective is that the plant is operated in a safe manner, Becker said, adding that Evergreen officials have met with the city frequently on a number of issues, including odors that were released from the plant from the rerefining process.

We had a period of about a year, year and a half, where pungent odors were released regularly from the plant, he said. And that catches peoples attention in a hurry.

He said the company has resolved the odor issue for the most part and has established a community advisory group and a community newsletter to keep people current on what is happening at the plant.

Becker also noted that the Evergreen facility is up for sale, and that a number of companies have contacted the city about the property.

Consumer Watchdog, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based advocacy group petitioned the DTSC at the time of the incident to shutter the Evergreen rerefinery. Judy Dugan, research director for the advocacy group, says the incident provides the state with an opportunity to show a new urgency in dealing with operators of plants that handle toxic materials.

The bottom line is that rerefining is a good idea. Its better than shipping the waste oil to Mexico, Dugan said. At the same time, she noted, it is imperative for the state to protect the communities these plants are located in … to tell them we are looking out for you.

Laney said that DTSC intends to look at everything, and that its findings will be accessible. Our policy is one of transparency, she said. We intend to provide all the information available to us across the board.

Following the July 6 incident, Evergreen released a statement that noted: Working quickly and relying on their emergency training, the Evergreen operations team evaluated the situation and immediately called Alameda County Fire as a precaution. There was no fire and no injuries. One worker was evaluated for exposure and released by the medical facility and returned to work.

Evergreen Oil Inc., which is headquartered in Irvine, Calif., was founded in 1982, with the first rerefinery coming online in 1986. The plant uses CEP Technology to produce API Group II base oils.