Husky Energy deserves credit for moving swiftly Sunday to clean up the mess the Lima Refinery created when 50,000 gallons of oil was blown across Allen County. It quickly established a public information line for residents to call and immediately began cleaning the vehicles and homes that were sprayed by the oil.
Fortunately, there is nothing to suggest that the tar-like oil that spewed from the refinery is dangerous to people, according to an initial report by the EPA.
Both Husky and the EPA continue to investigate what happened. Once those investigations are complete, it is important the public knows the details about what happened and how Husky plans to keep it from happening again.
Oil refineries tend to be one of those not-in-my-back-yard industries. We all want the product, and we all know the work has to be done somewhere, but few people want it where they live. This community always has been willing to accept such unconventional neighbors, in large part, we believe, because of the frankness with which the refinery’s owners have operated.
The “accidental oil mist,” as Husky called it, left oil on homes and vehicles as far as two miles away from the Metcalf Street refinery. The release from a storage tank came as the company concluded once-every-five-years maintenance work.
The release was through a safety valve designed to release excess pressure. While the safety valve did exactly what it is supposed to do, company spokesman Graham White told The Lima News “there’s a bunch of things that should have happened before that.”
The public needs to know what that bunch of things” was, why none of it happened and the plan to fix the problem. While Husky took immediate remedial steps by offering car washes on-site and distributing solvents to area car washes, the company needs to work on restoring trust with its neighbors.
Whether it was higher-than-normal flares, louder-than-usual noises or strange-smelling releases, the refinery’s different owners have tried to make sure the public understood what was happening. Unfortunately for Husky, the thing people understand best right now is that their property was coated in with oil from the refinery.
Husky can’t get shy about sharing details as the company learns them. It’s also going to mean convincing people this won’t happen again.