The history of the Pride Refining plant in North Abilene, Texas, is sketchy. A report from the Energy Information Administration has the plant having been permanently shut down in 1998. However, an EPA Envirofacts Warehouse record lists the facility as under ownership of Delek Marketing and Supply, whose website lists an August 2006 acquisition of various assets from Pride Companies, L.P. These include refined petroleum product terminals, pipelines, storage tanks and idle oil refinery equipment.
Data from Scorecard.org suggest that, as of 2002, the plant scored a 60-70th percentile for cancer risk compared to other facilities in the United States. The percentile for air releases of reproductive toxicants was even higher, at 80-90th percentile. Recognized carcinogens totaled high based on these data, and benzene was found in significant levels. Developmental toxicants, immunotoxicants and hazardous compounds for the kidneys, endocrine system, lungs, skin and more were also found.
Both total environmental and air releases peaked between 1992 and 1997, and they bottomed out in 2002, the last year for which data were available. This facility was nonetheless still ranked second in Taylor County for releasing chemicals into the environment as well as for total environmental releases.
Another EPA record shows that many pollutants were released in 2008. Toluene, xylene, N-hexane and benzene were the highest releases, with as much as 2,225 pounds of toluene released per year at that time. Second was xylene at 1,571 pounds, but dangerous benzene was also released in significant amounts for the time period as well.
Oil Refineries and Asbestos
For the majority of the last century, in cases where extreme temperature or fire was a concern, the mineral called asbestos was selected as a building material. Plants such as Pride Refining plant in North Abilene, Texas, therefore, were generally built with materials that contained asbestos. One of the other properties of various kinds of asbestos is their resistance to chemical reactions. Because of this, asbestos was utilized in coating materials, protective clothes and counter tops. There is no doubt that asbestos was superb at safeguarding against flames and extreme heat. This ability, however, was accompanied by a horrible cost in terms of human health.
Generally, amosite was the kind of asbestos used. Frequently referred to as “brown asbestos”, the amphibole form of asbestos known as amosite is particularly resistant to acidic substances like those manufactured in facilities like the North Abilene Pride Refining plant because of the iron molecules in its chemical composition. Although it was outlawed in building materials in the 1970s, amosite, in the form of asbestos transite, was used for many years in labs, chemical plants and refineries throughout the country.
Similar to cement, asbestos transite could be laminated and sprayed onto ductwork and pipes. This form of asbestos did not present a health hazard so long as it was solid. As transite with asbestos containing material (ACM) gets older and become prone to crumbling, however, lethal, tiny particles can float into the atmosphere. In this state, it is said to be friable, or able to be crushed by hand pressure alone. Laboratory and chemical plant kilns also often were constructed with friable asbestos in insulation linings.
Why Friable Asbestos Is a Problem
Asbestos fibers, when friable, can be readily dispersed in the atmosphere. When someone inhales these particles, they can harm the lungs, causing cancer. Mesothelioma, an unusual but frequently fatal disease affecting the mesothelium (the tissue that lies between the lungs and the chest cavity), is strongly linked with asbestos exposure. Peritoneal and pericardial mesothelioma are caused by the ingestion of fibers of asbestos, which can occur when microscopic particles become airborne and land on food or drinks.
Increased pressure from the media and researchers forced the creation of laws regulating the use of asbestos. The use of asbestos was more commonplace, however, when facilities such as Pride Refining plant in North Abilene were first operating. Before modern laws were put into place, employees often labored without protective equipment in spaces where asbestos particles filled the atmosphere.
Asbestos Exposure - a Hidden Danger
Asbestos-related diseases, unlike typical on-the-job injuries, which are readily observed and known about soon after the causing incident, can take ten, twenty, or even thirty years to develop. When a worker begins exhibiting signs such as a persistent cough, difficulty breathing and pain in the chest or abdomen, his or her physician may not immediately identify asbestos exposure as a cause, leading to delays in diagnosis. Hence, it is vital for all that worked in or lived around oil refineries such as Pride Refining plant in North Abilene, Texas, to ask their doctors for a mesothelioma treatment guide. Moreover, all those who shared homes with these people are also in danger; unless effective decontamination protocols, such as using on-site showers, were enforced, it was easy for personnel to bring home asbestos on their skin, in their hair, or on their clothing. Although there is no mesothelioma cure, the disease may sometimes be treated with various therapies.Sources
Delek Marketing and Supply - A History of Growth
Energy Information Administration - Table 15. Refineries Permanently Shutdown by PAD District Between January 1, 1990 and January 1, 2008
EPA - Envirofacts Data Warehouse
Scorecard - Environmental Release Report
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal