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A recent oil spill at Citgo Petroleum Corp.'s refinery near Sulfur, La., was caused by heavy rains and was most likely exacerbated by equipment failures and human error, according to the company’s plant manager.
The investigation points to a downpour as the cause of the spill on June 19, 2006, which stalled commerce along the Calcasieu Ship Channel and shut down recreational waterways.
The facility’s wastewater system treats rain that falls into the plant, along with oil and other refining wastes. According to the American Press, the plant has three 10-million-gallon tanks that process the water and discharge it into the ship channel. However, these tanks were not equipped to handle the rainfall on June 19.
Randy Carbo, the vice president of Citgo's Lake Charles Manufacturing Complex, presented the company’s findings at meeting of the West Calcasieu Association of Commerce in Sulfur.
Carbo announced at the meeting that the plant’s wastewater system is designed to handle the heaviest rainfall expected during a 25-year period, which is the industry standard. However, the June 19 deluge was closer to a 50-year event.
Though Carbo explained that the rain was the root of the problem, the spill was made worse by the fact that the wastewater tanks contained too much waste oil.
Carbo explained that the company will perform an engineering study to ensure the refinery steam system works during heavy rain. The leaky junction box has since been sealed, and the wastewater system will be expanded.
Citgo told The American Press that all of the recoverable oil has been cleaned up. The remaining work will focus on smaller instances of shoreline contamination, which could take several weeks.