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Citgo receives court order to review cause of Lemont refinery fire

LEMONT – In the wake of the Lemont refinery fire, Citgo has received a court order to analyze and review what caused the blaze that damaged a crude oil unit last month, according to a Nov. 8 news release from the Illinois Attorney General's Office.

“This incident created a significant threat to public safety and the surrounding environment,” Attorney General Lisa Madigan said in the release.

The fire took place the evening of Oct. 23 when, during maintenance on a pump at the crude oil unit, a valve and bypass piping malfunctioned, causing heavy crude material to leak from the unit, according to the release.

No injuries or evacuations were required. However, the fire released pollutants and contaminants into the air in close proximity to residential areas, the release said.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sought the court order.

Citgo must now recommend corrective actions and a work plan to be approved by the EPA, according to the release.

It must also submit the results and location of air sampling conducted during and after the fire detailing the amount of contaminants released, as well as list all citizens, officials and agencies it contacted about the incident.

In addition to the order, a three-count complaint was filed alleging the fire created a danger to the environment, public health and welfare, the release said. The complaint accuses Citgo of violating air pollution laws and failing to minimize the release of hazardous substances.

Each count seeks a civil penalty of $50,000 per violation and an additional $10,000 for each day of each violation, according to the release.

“We need to know what caused this fire and we need assurances that the refinery is operating properly and safely,” Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow said in the release.

Citgo said in a news release that it has taken all necessary steps to respond to the fire and that it will make appropriate corrective actions after the investigation is completed.

A previous release from the company said air monitoring during and immediately after the blaze showed no readings of hazardous materials.

Citgo later said in a different release that the fire had no environmental impact and that there was no risk of endangerment to human health due to the incident.

“The safety of our employees, the community and the environment is not only our top priority; it is our single most important core value,” the company said in its most recent release.

Citgo cannot restart the vacuum section of its crude unit until it has demonstrated the proper safety measures are in place.

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