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Countrymark Cooperative

CountryMark Cooperative, LLP, is a fuel and lubricant producer and distributor for Indiana and surrounding areas. Its principal refinery is in Mount Vernon, Indiana. It also operates fuel terminals in Mount Vernon as well as Switz City, Jolietville and Peru, Indiana, and one in Henderson, Kentucky.

In addition to gasoline, the cooperative produces Super Diexelex-4 and Premium Diesel-R off-road diesel fuels. Annual sales in 2008 totaled $1.3 billion.

Early History

The CountryMark cooperative began in the 1920s when a few Indiana cooperatives began to collectively purchase oil for farm equipment, totaling 77 members by 1930. Known then as the Indiana Farm Bureau Cooperative Association, it continued to grow and by the 1940s was involved with drilling, refining and distribution.

The cooperative today is the only existing oil refining and marketing company that is American-owned. It is considered a leader in distributing biodiesel and ethanol. The company purchases more than 9.5 million barrels of crude oil every year. It is an economic boon, bringing in $800 million into Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky in 2008 alone.

Environmental Impact

The CountryMark refinery was built in 1940. It is supplied with crude oil using a system of nearly 500 miles of pipeline and has an average daily capacity of 26,000 barrels. All of the oil comes from the Illinois Basin, a 53,000-square-mile depression that lies below parts of the Midwest. This high-quality oil contains less sulfur, compared to Middle Eastern oil. Diesel is also yielded with a higher cetane rating, while more gasoline and diesel fuel is produced from each barrel.

Major pollutants cited by the EPA include benzene, carbon tetrachloride and acetaldehyde. The background risk of cancer from inhalants is 13.69 per million, based on 2002 EPA estimates, while major risk is at 0.74 per million. Data on asbestos was unavailable.

Oil Refineries and Asbestos

During almost all of the 20th century, whenever combustion or excessive heat was a concern, the mineral called asbestos was chosen as a building material. As a result, it was usual for oil refineries such as CountryMark Cooperative facilities to be built with materials that contained asbestos. In addition to being flame-proof and heat-proof, certain types of amphibole asbestos are also particularly resistant to chemical reactions. As a result, asbestos was utilized in protective garments and work surfaces. And although the asbestos did well in preventing fire damage and in protecting people and equipment from excessive heat, it also exposed people who used it or worked around it to significant health risks.

Amosite was frequently the kind of asbestos utilized in such facilities. The brownish pigment associated with amosite comes from iron molecules in its chemical makeup; this also makes amosite resistant to corrosive chemicals like those produced in facilities like CountryMark Cooperative's. Although it was banned for construction purposes in the 1970s, amosite, in the form of asbestos-containing transite, was used for many years in oil refineries, laboratories and chemical plants throughout the country.

Asbestos transite could be laminated and sprayed onto pipes and ductwork just as cement could. As long as it remained solid, this form of asbestos posed little danger. However, as this transite got older, it was prone to becoming powdery, which caused the lethal, tiny particles to flake off into the atmosphere. Asbestos in this condition is considered friable, which means easily crushed. The insulation lining of laboratory and chemical plant kilns also often were fabricated with friable asbestos.

Why Friable Asbestos Is Bad

When they are friable, asbestos particles are easily released into the air. Diseases such as asbestosis and cancer are known to result from the inhalation of asbestos. In addition, exposure to asbestos is the primary cause of mesothelioma, a rare but all too often lethal cancer of the mesothelium, the lining between the lungs and the chest cavity. Peritoneal and pericardial mesothelioma result from swallowing asbestos fibers, which is likely if the microscopic particles float in the air and land on food or in drinks.

In the past twenty years scientists and researchers have discovered a lot about the risks that accompany being exposed to asbestos; as a result there are strict regulations controlling its use. Asbestos use was much more prevalent, however, when places like CountryMark Cooperative plants were built. And even now, asbestos from long ago may be the source of problems if it is not properly contained during remodeling jobs.

The Lurking Hazard of Asbestos

One of the insidious aspects of exposure to asbestos is that associated illnesses may take many, many years to develop - often long after the worker has retired from the employer. It can also be challenging to diagnose asbestos-related diseases because the symptoms are similar to those of other, less serious disorders. Those that worked at or spent much time near places such as CountryMark Cooperative refineries should, therefore, ask their health care professionals for mesothelioma information. Mesothelioma surgery is being developed, and early detection provides the patient and his or her doctor the highest chance to beat the previously always-fatal disease.




CountryMark - Submitted Testimony for the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works

EPA - MyEnvironment - Sites Reporting to EPA near Mount Vernon, IN,37.93468,-87.89539&pText=Mount%20Vernon,%20IN

University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops

University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal

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