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  • BBB counter Refinery statement

    The recent statement made by the Cepsa Oil refinery refuting the report released by CSIC, (Spains most senior scientific investigative body), has to be seen as a typical industrial response when finally caught out and cornered.

    The Bay Bucket Brigade vehemently criticizes this latest denial by the Refinery and says enough is enough. The time has come now to take remedial steps and reduce the pollution emanating from the plant and not to hide behind more figures and excuses. Internationally the Bucket Brigade is very familiar with this stance adopted by industries once they have been found out. It suspects that any acknowledgement could result in massive pay-outs in compensation to families who have lost dear ones to cancer or whose health has been affected by the contamination from the industry.

    The CSIC made it very clear that the benzene levels found in the residential area of Puente Mayorga was much higher than the EC recommended level of safe exposure specifically because of health impacts, cancer, to be clear. Therefore, whatever annual levels the refinery is claiming to comply with, the reality is that benzene should not be found outside the plant and steps must be taken to do something about this now.

    The BBB understands that industries will select measuring points to collect benzene data that may well be placed to present lower figures. Benzene also escapes from fugitive emissions ie those that escape from plant equipment and leaking valves and is causing these exceedingly high levels of benzene found at street level, presenting a substantial risk to the health of the surrounding population. Once the CSIC report was made public the BBB was greatly relieved that such an authoritative body has verified the need for action. The industry and Spanish authorities will ignore this at their peril.

    The Directive 2000/69 states that

    Limit Value for protection of human health 5micrograms/cm3 by Dec 2000
    Reducing on the 1st January 2006 to 4 micrograms/cm3
    Reducing every 12 months by 1 microgram/cm3 per year until reaching 0

    0 micrograms/cm3 will be reached by 1st Jan 2010

    (The Directive further states that benzene is a genotoxic carcinogen and there is no identifiable threshold below which there is no risk to human health)

    The idea that by claiming annual averages will protect the public from its activities is absurd when levels found by the BBB of 110 micrograms/cm3 (22 times over the safety limit) and those found as an average by the CSIC to be 5 to 6 times higher than the recommended EC levels indicating levels of 25 to 30 micrograms/cm3 of benzene,clearly exceed directive safety levels, including the levels set by the refinery itself of 10micrograms/cm3!!!

    The refinery claims that the limit value for benzene is 10 micrograms/cm3. (This would only be the case if it had requested a one time-limited extension under specific conditions and that levels should not exceed 10ug/m3).

    Given the carcinogenic properties of benzene, annual averages and means do not settle this in any way or form. The BBB would like to offer an analogy to illustrate the folly of the statement.

    Paracetamol is a harmless over the counter prescription drug which can be bought by anyone, the allowed dose is 2 tablets every four hours. This means that if I found someone who has never taken paracetamol in a year and fed him or her 4,380 tablets (the allowed quantity that can safely be taken in a year), and that unfortunate person dies, I could argue that I had done nothing wrong since I had followed the manufacturers recommended yearly dose which, when averaged out, is 2 tablets every four hours as recommended.

    The BBB will soon be releasing an analysis of the refineries operating around Europe to also challenge the point made by the refinery that it holds third place on its environmental performance in Europe, which clearly is also not true, evident by the BBB samples, the CSIC reports, our very own lungs and experience of the pollution we all live with on a day-to-day basis.