Citgo Oil operates a deep-conversion oil refinery that produces a variety of light fuel products in the town of Westlake, Louisiana. The refinery is also known as Cit-Con.
Citgo Petroleum traces its roots back to the early part of the 20th century. The name Citgo was first introduced in 1965. The company was purchased by Occidental Petroleum in 1982, then by The Southland Corporation (the owner of the 7-Eleven chain of convenience stores) in 1983. The company entered a relationship with PDVSA in 1986.
The Louisiana 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. The plan constructed a 60,000 B/D Cat Feed Hydrotreating Unit and a wastewater-treating unit in 1994. The Louisiana operation technically includes both a crude oil refinery and a separate lube oil production facility.
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.
Because of this, there is a strong emphasis on waste disposal. The operation includes no fewer than seven units for the management of hazardous waste that require that groundwater be monitored. Examples include the following:
- Land treatment facility
- Lube retention basin
- Holding basins one and two
- Interconnecting ditches
- Surge pond
- Secondary waste water treatment plant (including an aeration and equalization basin)
- West and south impoundments
Westlake, Louisiana is located in the southwestern portion of the state. Its population is roughly 4,500.
Asbestos and Citgo Oil's Westlake, Louisiana, Refinery
For almost all of the 20th century, when flame or heat was a danger, the mineral called asbestos was chosen as a building material. Asbestos-containing materials, accordingly, were commonly utilized in the building of facilities like Citgo Oil's Westlake, Louisiana, refinery. Resistance to reactive chemicals is one of the other properties of various types of amphibole asbestos. Because of this, asbestos was used in bench and counter tops, coating materials and safety clothing. One of the ironic things about asbestos is that although it does superbly guarding against the harm done by fire or high heat - it is one of the best insulators known and has been used for this purpose since ancient times - at the same time it poses serious risks to human health.
Amosite was often the variety of asbestos utilized in such facilities. The brownish pigment of amosite is a result of iron molecules in its chemical composition; this also makes amosite resistant to acidic substances, such as those manufactured in plants like Citgo Oil's Westlake, Louisiana, refinery. This amosite, in the form of asbestos transite, appeared in chemical plants and laboratories throughout the US for many years before it was outlawed in building materials in the 1970s.
Asbestos transite had properties similar to cement; it could be laminated, molded into working surfaces and sprayed onto ductwork and pipes. This form of asbestos did not offer a health risk while it was solid. With age, however, this transite grows prone to crumbling, allowing tiny particles to float into the air. When it is in this state, it is considered friable, a term that is used for materials that are easily crushed. The insulation lining of laboratory kilns also almost always were constructed with friable asbestos.
Why Is Friable Asbestos Bad?
When they are friable, asbestos particles are easily released into the environment. Breathing asbestos particles can result in conditions such as asbestosis. Pleural mesothelioma, an unusual but all too often lethal cancer affecting the mesothelium (the tissue that lies between the lungs and the chest cavity), has been shown to be linked with inhaling asbestos. If those particles of asbestos in the air settle on food or in drinks and are subsequently swallowed, peritoneal or pericardial mesothelioma may result, although they are less common than pleural mesothelioma.
Mounting pressure from medical researchers, news media and concerned citizens led to regulations controlling the use of asbestos. When oil refineries like Citgo Oil's Westlake, Louisiana, plant were first operating, however, asbestos was much more prevalent. And even now, asbestos from long ago can cause danger if it is not properly handled during remodeling and demolition projects.
A Ticking Bomb
Asbestos-related diseases, as opposed to many on-the-job injuries, which are easily observed and known about soon after the incident, may take many, many years to appear. When a former employee starts showing symptoms such as dyspnea (i.e., shortness of breath), a persistent cough and pain in the chest, his or her physician may not at first recognize asbestos as a factor, leading to delays in diagnosis and treatment. It is extremely important, therefore, that men and women who were employed by or spent much time near Citgo Oil's Westlake, Louisiana, refinery ask their physicians for mesothelioma information. Moreover, family members and others who shared homes with these people are also at risk, since unless strict decontamination protocols, like the use of workplace-only clothing and on-site showers, were enforced, it was easy for personnel to bring asbestos particles on themselves or their clothing. Treatments are available for some patients and include mesothelioma surgery.Sources
Citgo - Company History
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