ExxonMobil

By Larry Altman, Daily Breeze and Nick Green, Daily Breeze
Posted: 02/19/15, 8:10 PM PST |

The day after a massive ExxonMobil refinery explosion rocked Torrance and ripped apart a 12-story pollution-control device at the plant, some members of the community are questioning the company’s response to the emergency.

The blast, equivalent to a 1.7-magnitude earthquake, shook surrounding homes and businesses and belched smoke and debris over parts of Torrance and Redondo Beach.

But more than 24 hours after the explosion, no one from ExxonMobil was available to answer questions from the media, the company had not directly contacted the Torrance fire chief, and city officials still did not know exactly what was in the substances that coated many streets and vehicles.

“I don’t know what’s causing their reticence,” Fire Chief William Racowschi said Thursday. “It’s probably because they’re trying to wrap themselves around what happened.”

Shortly after the chief made those comments to this news organization the city announced on its Facebook page late Thursday afternoon that ExxonMobil planned to hold an hourlong town hall meeting at 6 p.m. today to discuss the incident. The event is set for the Toyota Meeting Hall at the Torrance Cultural Arts Center, 3330 Civic Center Drive.

Still, some residents wondered on social media why the emergency refinery sirens that are tested monthly did not sound, while others questioned the apparent lack of urgency displayed.

Police closed Del Amo Boulevard along the south edge of the refinery, but did not close barriers installed on Crenshaw Boulevard, the closest road to the fluid catalytic cracking unit that was severely damaged in the Wednesday morning explosion.

In a previously published public notice explaining the Torrance Community Warning System, the refinery said the city’s Fire Department has the “sole responsibility to decide what tools to use, when to use them, and what area within the community to notify.”

However, the fine print at the bottom of the notice also says “ExxonMobil has the ability to initiate the use of the Community Alert Sirens and Crenshaw Street barriers if an incident at the refinery warrants immediate community notification.”

It’s unknown why that didn’t occur in this case, especially since city officials told nearby residents Wednesday to “shelter in place” in an automated message issued about 90 minutes after the explosion.

Four refinery workers required medical treatment following the explosion. Eight needed to be decontaminated, state officials said Thursday.

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