Cit-Con Oil is a deep-conversion oil refinery that produces a variety of light fuel products in the town of Westlake, Louisiana.
Cit-Con Oil (affiliated with the gasoline brand Citgo) began operations in Louisiana in the 1940s. During the 1980s, the company went through some changes: it merged with Occidental, then was acquired by Southland, and then was acquired by PDSVA.
The plant was fully modernized in 1992, including a TAME unit and several pieces of equipment specifically suited to meet gasoline standards defined in the Clean Air Act. In 1994, the plant constructed a 60,000 B/D Cat Feed Hydrotreating Unit and a wastewater-treating unit.
Cit-Con Oil in Louisiana includes two key segments: a crude oil refinery and a lube oil production facility. All told, the operation includes no fewer than seven units for the management of hazardous waste that require that groundwater be monitored. Examples include the following:
- Surge pond
- Secondary waste water treatment plant (including an aeration and equalization basin)
- West and south impoundments
- Land treatment facility
- Lube retention basin
- Holding basins one and two
- Interconnecting ditches
The Cit-Con site has been of interest to environmental watchers because it is bordered on the north by the Bayou d'Inde and on the east by the Calcasieu River.
Westlake, Louisiana is a town of approximately 4,500 people. It is located in southwestern Louisiana.
Oil Refineries and Asbestos
Whenever flame or excessive heat was a danger, various forms of asbestos were the insulator of choice for most of the 20th century. As a result, it was quite common for oil refineries such as Cit-Con Oil to be constructed with materials that contained asbestos. A lesser-known property of various kinds of the fibrous mineral is that they are unaffected by reactive chemicals. As a result, asbestos was used in lab equipment, protective clothing and bench and counter tops. The ironic thing with asbestos is that while it does very well at guarding against the damage done by high heat and flames - it is one of the best insulators known and has been used for the purpose throughout history - it also poses significant risks to human health.
Most of the asbestos was amosite. The brownish pigment of amosite is a result of iron molecules in its chemical makeup; this also makes amosite resistant to corrosive chemicals, such as those produced in plants like Cit-Con Oil. Used for decades in the form of asbestos transite in chemical plants, refineries and labs throughout the United States, amosite was finally prohibited from use for construction purposes in the 1970s.
Like cement, asbestos transite could be sprayed onto ductwork and pipes, molded into working surfaces and laminated. Generally, new items built with transite were considered safe since the asbestos fibers were encapsulated in the transite. Microscopic particles of asbestos are released into the atmosphere, however, as this transite gets older and becomes prone to becoming powdery. When it is in this state, it is considered friable, or able to be crushed by hand pressure alone. In addition, industrial kilns often contained friable asbestos in insulation linings.
Why Friable Asbestos Is Bad
Asbestos fibers, when they are friable, can be readily dispersed into the air. Diseases such as asbestosis are known to result from breathing asbestos. In addition, exposure to asbestos is the primary causal factor of pleural mesothelioma, a rare but frequently lethal cancer of the mesothelium, which is the tissue that lies between the lungs and the chest cavity. Peritoneal and pericardial mesothelioma are linked to the ingestion of fibers of asbestos, which can occur if microscopic particles float in the air and land on food or in beverages.
Because medical research yielded a better awareness of the risks of asbestos exposure, people today are protected by stringent rules controlling how to use asbestos. When oil refineries like Cit-Con Oil were first operating, however, the use of asbestos was more commonplace. And in far too many cases workers used materials containing asbestos without the protection of respirators.
Asbestos Exposure - a Hidden Danger
Asbestos-related diseases, in contrast to most job-related injuries, which are easily observed and known about soon after the incident, can take ten, twenty, or even thirty years to develop. It can also be hard to diagnose asbestos-related diseases since their symptoms resemble the symptoms of other conditions. It is vital, therefore, that those that were employed by or spent much time around plants such as Cit-Con Oil ask their doctors for mesothelioma information. Such information can enable doctors to make a timely diagnosis; especially with mesothelioma, the earlier it is diagnosed, the better the odds of surviving with the help of treatment like mesothelioma surgery.Sources
City-Data.com - Westlake, Louisiana
Grist - Oil Refineries are full of asbestos, not just carbon
Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality - Calcasieu Estuary
Louisiana Economic Development - Louisiana Petrochem
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal