Heartland Petroleum is owned by Columbus based Heartland Group Holdings.
This facility is located on the east side of Columbus and recycles used motor oil to be sold and reused. The Columbus Fire Department, area businesses, and passers-by began complaining to the Ohio EPA about the odors coming from Heartland Petroleum as soon as the facility opened in March 2009. Employees in neighboring businesses have been able to smell the sulfurous odor both outside and inside of their workplaces.
Heartland Petroleum has been cited by the Ohio EPA for continuously emitting sulfur dioxide and hydrogen chloride into the air, violating their permits. On December 14, Heartland Petroleum had a power failure which resulted in the release of hydrogen gas and hydrogen sulfide.
According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry—
Long-term exposure to persistent levels of sulfur dioxide can affect your health. Lung function changes were seen in some workers exposed to low levels of sulfur dioxide for 20 years or more. However, these workers were also exposed to other chemicals, so their health effects may not have been from sulfur dioxide alone. Asthmatics have also been shown to be sensitive to the respiratory effects of low concentrations of sulfur dioxide. Children who live in or near heavily industrialized areas where sulfur dioxide occurs may experience difficulty breathing, changes in the ability to breathe deeply, and burning of the nose and throat.
Hydrogen chloride is irritating and corrosive to any tissue it contacts. Brief exposure to low levels causes throat irritation. Exposure to higher levels can result in rapid breathing, narrowing of the bronchioles, blue coloring of the skin, accumulation of fluid in the lungs, and even death. Exposure to even higher levels can cause swelling and spasm of the throat and suffocation. Some people may develop an inflammatory reaction to hydrogen chloride.
Exposure to low concentrations of hydrogen sulfide may cause irritation to the eyes, nose, or throat. It may also cause difficulty in breathing for some asthmatics. Brief exposures to high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide (greater than 500 parts per million) can cause a loss of consciousness and possibly death. In most cases, the person appears to regain consciousness without any other effects. However, in many individuals, there may be permanent or long-term effects such as headaches, poor attention span, poor memory, and poor motor function. Because hydrogen sulfide is heavier than air and because children are shorter than adults, children sometimes are exposed to more hydrogen sulfide than adults. Health problems in children who have been exposed to hydrogen sulfide have not been studied much. Exposed children probably will experience effects similar to those experienced by exposed adults.
Heartland Petroleum has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for a number of serious worker safety violations. Some of these violations have been fixed, but not all. Citations include —
• failure to label piping with flammable or combustible liquid
• not supplying protective equipment for employees handling hazardous materials
• not supplying eye wash stations for emergency use
• failure to supply blocks on energy supplies to equipment during maintenance
• failure to conduct routine inspection for controls on hazardous energy
• failure to provide adequate training to employees for emergency procedures and safe working practices to avoid electrical shock, chemical burns, and other injuries
• inadequate alarm system to alert employees of hazardous situations
Near-by businesses and residents are exposed to toxins by Heartland Petroleum because the company has been violating State of Ohio by—
• bypassing required pollution controls, including uncontrolled releases of sulfur dioxide and hydrogen chloride
• repeated complaints of nuisance odors from neighboring businesses
• failing to conduct required emissions testing
• loading railcars without a permit, creating another source of air pollution
According to the Ohio EPA, these violations are “an imminent threat to human health and the environment.”
On December 14, 2009, Heartland Petroleum had a leak, which included hydrogen sulfide, causing the evacuation of 4,000 employees from area businesses. Officials from Heartland blamed a temporary power outage for the leak. American Electric Power said the facility was without power for no more than ten seconds.
On July 17, 2010, warm oil was spilled and came into contact with a hydrogen tank. A gasket blew, causing a pipe to catch fire.
What is the EPA doing?
On June 15, 2010, the State of Ohio filed a lawsuit against Heartland Refinery Group for their environmental violations. The trial assignment is set for June 14, 2011. This gives an entire year for Heartland Petroleum to continue to bypass pollution controls, ignore their permits, contaminate the local businesses and residents with toxins, and have more accidents. It is highly possible that this date will be pushed back even further, and there’s no guarantee how the court will rule, how strict it will be, how long the court will give Heartland to comply, nor how long it will actually take Heartland to comply.
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