Updated: Feb 5
November 14th, 2019
Evergreen Resources Group, LLC scheduled a public meeting to discuss the past contamination of the Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) oil refinery which Sunoco, who owned the site form 1988 to 2012, is responsible for. However, protestors from activist group Philly Thrive blocked off the entrance to the auditorium where the meeting was meant to take place.
The conflict arose from the disconnect between advisory boards and locals. Citizens felt that those in power have failed to consult with them up to this point about what steps the refinery should take moving forward, with no meetings being open to the public over the last twelve years . These feelings were strengthened by the sudden release of extremely complicated documents on Evergreen’s findings about the site: over one thousand pages of chemical analysis on the oil refinery from the past few years. This release stirred up ill-feeling among Philadelphians, as the company had failed in keeping them informed and including them in the process. As such, protestors felt the need to block the discussion to send a message to both Evergreen and Philly officials that the citizens of Philadelphia will no longer be bystanders, want to activity be part of the operation, and demand to be coherently informed.
But, what exactly did this chemical remediation report include? The full document is divided into 11 mini documents that each focus on a different area of interest. These mini documents include both a report and an appendix, each of them being up to three hundred pages long. Activists were not wrong to say that this report was nearly incomprehensible.
However, that did not stop us from reading these reports and condensing the information as much as possible. Below is a brief summary of the documents for you to decide. Do you think these findings warranted active engagement with the community? Were there actual dangers that required citizens’ attention or do you think it was fine for evergreen to not actively reveal this information to the public?
Area of Interest 1: Point Breeze No. 1 Tank Farm (Latest report: August 2016)
Location/Description: 67 acres occupying the northeast portion of the Point Breeze Process Area South Yard. South of the Belmont Terminal and west of 26th street.
Usage (Current use): Aboveground storage tanks that primarily contain light-end hydrocarbons.
Chemical Analysis: Most soil samples in the Area of Interest (AOI) were not particularly high in concentration in dangerous chemicals related to the refinery. However, one sample location found particularly high concentrations of volatile organic chemicals, and another found a high amount of lead. Groundwater had a similar trend. Specifically, within the ambient air average benzene concentration among samples was 2.1 micrograms per cubic meter. Benzene was the only compound in all air samples. Overall, detected concentrations of VOCS were lower than prior papers have suggested. Concentrations were smaller in upwind and downwind samples.
Area of Interest 2: Point Breeze Processing Area (Latest report: July 2017)
Location/Description: Eastside of Schuylkill River, bordered by Passyunk Avenue to the North and AOI 1 to the East. Approximately 111 acres and covered by impervious surfaces.
Usage (Current use): Only active unloading dock for refined products in Point Breeze Facility. Has crude distillation units, fluid catalytic cracking, distillate hydrotreating, low sulfur gasoline and alkylation units, sulfur recovery facilities, wastewater treatment plant, laboratories and office buildings
Chemical Analysis: Only 2 chemicals of concern (Lead and benzo(a)pyrene) exceeded concentrations of concern in soil samples, with lead exceeding it at four locations in the AOI. In terms of groundwater, all chemical of concerns exceeded standard concentration. Outdoor air samples had concentrations that were too small to be properly analyzed. No indoor samples exceed screening values for indoor air quality as published by ACGIH. However, 3 of 20 indoor samples’ concentration of Naphthalene exceeded EPA standards for cancer risk.
Area of Interest 3: Point Breeze Impoundment Area (Latest report: March 2017)
Location/Description: Located on the east side of the Schuylkill River within the Point Breeze South Yard. AOI 3 is bordered by Hartranft Street to the north, Penrose Avenue to the south, and the Schuylkill River to the northwest. AOI 3 is approximately 107 acres with most of the area not covered by impervious surfaces.
Usage (Current use): Location of #5 tank farm. Monitors well network: 72 monitoring wells and one recovery well.
Chemical Analysis: Four surface soil samples saw Lead detected above standard safety concern: 2240 mg/kg. All other abundant chemicals (Benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene. fluorine) were not detected in concentrations high enough to warrant a health concern. No chemicals of concern were detected in subsurface soils at high enough concentration to warrant concern. Most chemicals of concerns such as ethylbenzene and fluorene have never been detected in area’s ground water. Only lead, benzene, and MTBE have been detected in lower aquifers. No indoor or ambient air samples’ chemical concentrations exceeded EPA or PA standards.
Area of Interest 4: No. 4 Tank Farm (Latest report: March 2017)
Location/Description: AOI 4 is 106 acres and occupies the eastern portion of the Point Breeze Refinery South Yard. West of 26th street and south of AOIs 1 and 2.
Usage (Current use): Primarily crude oil and gas oil tankage/storage. Infrastructure mainly aboveground storage tanks and processing equipment.
Chemical Analysis: The only chemical of concern in AOI soil that was found in high enough concentrations to be a safety issue was lead. Small amount of slag and cinder but presumed to be chemically inert due to commonality in Philadelphia soil.
Area of Interest 5: Girard Point South Tank Field (Latest report: January 2017)
Location/Description: Southernmost portion of the complex. Bordered to the north and northwest by Penrose Avenue and the George Platt Bridge. Approximately 114 acres.
Usage (Current use): Light and intermediate product tankage, old warehouses, benzene rail unloading area, and unloading docks.
Chemical Analysis: Benzo(a)pyrene and lead were the only chemicals found in surface soil with concentrations that exceeded safety values. No subsurface soil samples were detected. Butane rail facility in the area specifically saw no exceedance in chemicals either. Ground water saw no difference in the chemical of concerns within the area. Some of these include benzene, lead, and pyrene. Neither indoor nor ambient samples of the site exceeded air quality standard values published by the PADEP or EPA. However, all ambient air samples and 6 of the 8 indoor ambient air samples did exceeded EPA values for a target risk of cancer.
Area of Interest 6: Girard Point Chemicals Area (Latest report: November 2017)
Location/Description: Approximately 100 acres and located on the east side of the Schuylkill River. Wedge-shaped property and bordered by Lanier Avenue to the east, Penrose Avenue to the south, and Pennypacker Avenue to the north.
Usage (Current use): Notable facilities include udex and cumene units, diesel hydrotreater, tankage, boiler house and associated feed water treatment, maintenance building, office building and laboratory.
Chemical Analysis: Several samples of soil had levels of lead and benzene that exceeded non-residential safety standards. Only one sample saw an exceedance of benzo(a)pyrene. Concentrations of benzene, isopropyl benzene, toluene, 1,2,4-TMB, benzo(a)anthracene, beno(a)pyrene, beno(g,h,i)pyrene , benzo(b)fluoranthene, chrysene, naphthalene, and lead were detected above the non-residential MSC in the water table aquifer. However, no exceedances occurred in the lower, semi-confined aquifer. No exceedances were found in ambient and indoor air samples except for one sample saw an exceedance in benzene.
Area of Interest 7: Girard Point Fuels Areas (Latest report: June 2017)
Location/Description: Located on the east side of the Schuylkill River and occupying about 130 acres of space, AOI 7 is bordered by Lanier Avenue to the east, Pennypacker Avenue to the South, and the Schuylkill River to the west and North.
Usage (Current use): This location has 5 solid waste management units, 4 control rooms, a firehouse, maintenance and electricity building, and canteen.
Chemical Analysis: No soil samples during most recent collection had chemicals of concern that exceeded non-residential health standards. However, the water table aquifers had the same chemical exceedances as AOI 6. Also similar to AOI 6, there were no exceedances in the lower aquifers. No exceedances in any samples of both indoor and ambient air.
Area of Interest 8: North Yard (Latest report:December 2017)
Location/Description: Located on the northern end of the PES complex, this 250 acre property that borders the Schuylkill River to the west, the Schuylkill expressway to the east, and the Philadelphia Gas Works Passyunk Facility to the south.
Usage (Current use): Offloading of crude oil from railroad, fuel oil storage, refinery butane and propane storage, and terminaling facilities.
Chemical Analysis: Only Benzo(a)pyrene and lead were identified in surface soil samples in excess of safety standards for non-residential areas. Groundwater samples saw exceedances in numerous chemicals. Some volatile organic chemicals include benzo(b)fluoranthene, naphthalene, toluene and fluoranthene. Some metals found in excess were nickel, lead, vanadium, and zinc. No indoor or ambient air samples collected exceeded EPA safety standard concentrations. However, one sample at the Fire Department Building on the property exceeded EPA safety standard for benzene.
Area of Interest 9: Schuylkill River Tank Farm (Latest report: February 2017)
Location/Description: Located on the west side of the Schuylkill River, AOI 9 is actually separated from the main portion of the complex. AOI 9 is bound by the Mingo Creek Flood Control Basin to the south.
Usage (Current use): Not explicitly said but assumed storage area.
Chemical Analysis: Lead and benzo(b)fluoranthene detected in surface soil above PA department of energy protection safety standards. No subsoil samples exceeded safety standards. In terms of groundwater, lead and other volatile organic compounds such as benzene, EDB, MTBE, naphthalene, and ethylbenzene were found in concentrations exceeding Pennsylvania standards for perched groundwater. In the lower aquifer groundwater, MTBE was the only chemical found in excess concentrations. None of the indoor air samples exceeded PADEP safety standards or EPA standard for cancer risk. Only benzene exceeded these standards in outdoor air samples.
Area of Interest 10: West Yard (Latest report: June 2016)
Location/Description: Located west of the Schuylkill River and south of Passyunk Avenue, this 80 acre portion of the oil refinery. The southern portion of AOI 10 is traversed by a small tributary called Lands Creek. No occupied building
Usage (Current use): Maintenance of an existing Sunoco pipeline and an above ground manifold area.
Chemical Analysis: Soil samples saw arsenic, manganese, benzene, and lead above their respective non-residential concentration standards. Surface and groundwater were deemed not to be a media of concern given low concentration of chemicals. No air samples since there are no occupied buildings.
Area of Interest 11: Deep Aquifer Beneath the Complex (Latest report: Jun 2013)
Location/Description: Underneath complex
Usage (Current use): No industrial usage but holds water that is used by both the Philadelphia area and in south Jersey. Monitoring wells collect data on AOI 11.
Chemical Analysis: Only groundwater is of concern in this location. Ground water concentrations differed depending on what AOI was above the portion of AOI 11 investigated. As such, the chemical Analysis of AOI 11 was not taken as a whole, rather is seen as a conglomeration of the groundwater assessments of the other 10 AOI.
Benzene and lead were the main chemicals found in concentrations high above health standard at the site. In addition to chemical assessments, ecological assessments for each area were done. However, given most areas of interest were impervious surfaces with no surface water features, minimal if any ecological impacts were predicted. AOI 10 does border a nearby tributary with evidence of turtle nesting however this risk needed to be further evaluated. L
Though the meeting is planned to be rescheduled, at the moment Evergreen has not released an official date. The second meeting was planned to be in the spring however this date might be moved to earlier given the public as a whole still wants a meeting to occur. If you’re interested in reading these reports yourself or finding specific numbers and figures, the link to the site is below.
Act 2 Documents: https://phillyrefinerycleanup.info/act-2-documents/
Documents about the explosion on June 21st, 2019: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6476881-Pes-Factual-Update-Final.html#document/p10
Other interesting article about clean-up: https://whyy.org/articles/possible-future-uses-for-pes-refinery-call-into-question-cleanup-plans-there/