It has been more than a year since the fires and explosions at the South Philadelphia oil-refining complex in June 2019. Many of the city’s residents heard or felt the explosions at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) refinery. Since that time, what has been done to protect residents from cancer-causing chemicals in the air and groundwater?
Unfortunately, not a lot has been done in the past year to clean up toxic air, ground, and water in many parts of Philadelphia. Children can be especially vulnerable to exposure to environmental injuries, including toxic substances like lead, benzene, or PFAS. When exposure causes injury or learning disabilities in children, the companies responsible for polluting the community should be held responsible.
Oil Refinery Leaking Toxic Chemicals
The PES refinery was the largest oil refinery on the East Coast, processing up to 14 million gallons of crude oil a day. On June 21st, 2019 at a little after 4 a.m., a fire was reportedly caused by a faulty pipe. The explosion released more than 5,200 pounds of deadly hydrofluoric acid into the air. The refinery closed shortly after the fire and PES filed for bankruptcy.
Even before the explosion, air monitors by the refinery measured benzene in levels more than 21 times the federal limit. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), benzene can cause the cells not to work correctly. “For example, it can cause bone marrow not to produce enough red blood cells, which can lead to anemia. Also, it can damage the immune system by changing blood levels of antibodies and causing the loss of white blood cells.”
“The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has determined that benzene causes cancer in humans. Long-term exposure to high levels of benzene in the air can cause leukemia, cancer of the blood-forming organs.”
Toxic Forever Chemicals in Philadelphia Drinking Water
Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are commonly used in industrial and consumer applications, including making non-stick cookware, fabrics, paper products, and firefighting foam. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established health advisory limits of 70 ng/L but there are no state or federal drinking water regulations for PFAS. Some states are not setting their own PFAS standards, including New Jersey.
During drinking water test samples by the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) in 2014 did not find any samples above the reporting levels. However, a more recent test of drinking water samples across the country found some level of PFAS in all but one sample. In Philadelphia, one tested sample found 11 different types of PFAS compounds, totaling 46.3 parts per trillion.
PFAS are linked to diseases like cancer and thyroid problems. These are sometimes referred to as “forever chemicals,” because they do not break down over time like some toxic substances. As used in firefighting foam, PFAS contamination is common near military bases or former military locations.
Legal Help After an Environmental Injury or Toxic Exposure
If you or a loved one suffered an environmental injury, you should talk to an experienced Philadelphia injury attorney about getting compensation for your injuries. Your personal injury lawyer will investigate your case, identify all the possible causes of your injuries, help guide you through the claims process and advise you of your options. Do not hesitate to contact Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation.