Huge flames and plumes of smoke shot out of the CITGO refinery for about three hours on Wednesday night before firefighters got it under control. An employee said crews were working on a valve when the leak of crude oil caught fire. However, fire officials have yet to release an official cause.
As for the quality of the air around the refinery, a CITGO media spokesperson said no reportable admissions of chemicals were detected Thursday morning. Last night, Will County Emergency Management Director Harold Damron said chemical levels discovered during the fire were "below the threshold of concern."
"The length of the fire how long it might take them to put out could create a different situation but in this case they were able to shut off the supply of oil to the fire which allowed them to extinguish it relatively quickly last night," Damron said. "The duration of the fire was three hours. So if this was a situation where we might have a fire burning for you know, many more hours or days it could create a different situation."
Few people live close to the industrial area where the refinery is located, but residents a few miles out were able to see the smoke hovering above.
"My main concern right now is the quality of the air coming over this area right now," said Joe Ebert, Lemont resident.
Residents who believe they may have been impacted by smoke or residue on their property may call the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency complaint hotline at 1-888-372-1996. The IEPA says it is working with CITGO personnel to determine any impacts to the surrounding areas and monitoring air quality.
The CITGO refinery is in compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Recent records show 1 air pollution citation. The company released a statement:
The crude unit fire that was reported last night at the CITGO Lemont Refinery has been extinguished and there were no injuries. Air monitoring showed no readings of any hazardous materials and the work of repairing the unit and investigating the cause has begun. At this time we do not have a schedule on when the crude unit will again be operational but we will provide updates as more information becomes available. The refinery operations have been significantly reduced, but we do have some downstream units still in operation. We would like to thank our neighboring municipalities, Will County Emergency Management Agency and all of the first responders for their assistance. The safety of our employees and the surrounding community remains our first priority.