Official says refinery too unsafe for investigators to enter

Written by The Associated Press | Jun 27, 2019 6:23 PM

A sign for Philadelphia Energy Solutions stands at the refining complex in Philadelphia, Wednesday, June 26, 2019. The owner of the largest oil refinery complex on the East Coast is telling officials that it will close the facility after a fire last week set off explosions and damaged the facility. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement Wednesday that Philadelphia Energy Solutions had informed him of its decision to shut down the facility in the next month. The more than 1,000 workers there will be impacted, the mayor said. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

(Philadelphia) -- A federal safety board looking into the fire and explosions at the largest oil refinery on the East Coast says the unit where the blasts happened remains too dangerous to access.

Kristen Kulinowski is a leader of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board. She calls the June 21 blaze and blasts at Philadelphia Energy Solutions a "fundamental failure."

She says that investigators haven't determined a cause and that the first priority is to physically examine the unit once the area is structurally safe.

For now, investigators are gathering perishable items, interviewing employees and requesting documents.

She says the ordeal started when hydrocarbon vapors were somehow released in a unit that makes a blending agent for gasoline and then found an ignition source.

If the hydrofluoric acid in that unit became a gas and got into the atmosphere, it would be harmful to humans. She says no such gases were released.

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