A Corpus Christi refinery was fined recently by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for a pair of November 2008 incidents that resulted in a failure to prevent unauthorized emissions.

Valero Refining-Texas, L.P. was fined $13,706 by the TCEQ on Dec. 9 for the 2008 incidents, the first of which took place on Nov. 16, 2008 and lasted 48 minutes. During that amount of time, according to TCEQ documents, small amounts of sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and ammonia were released into the air.

However, the amounts released did not "exceed levels protective of human health or environmental receptors," according to the report.

The second event, which occurred on Nov. 19, 2008, lasted 45 hours and resulted in the release of the volatile organic compounds benzene, toluene, hydrogen sulfide, xylene and ethylbenzene into the air, according to TCEQ documents.

TCEQ investigators found the unauthorized release to be the result of a failute to bolt or fasten covers on each access hatch to form an air-tight seal on one of the facility's tanks. Because no air-tight seal was in place, according to the TCEQ report, benzene water collected on the roof of the tank, causing it to sink partially.

Valero was also fined for not submitting a final incident report to the TCEQ on time.

In addition to the fine, Valero was ordered to complete a Supplemental Environmental Project, as well as submit written documentation showing proof of corrective measures taken to ensure final incident reports are submitted on time in the future.

Valero has since installed a flange-type plate, which was done in February, on the roof's manway that can be gasketed and bolted down to form an air-tight seal, according to TCEQ documents.

For its Supplemental Environmental Project, Valero will donate $5,482 to the Texas A&M University-Kingsville - Corpus Christi Airshed Quality Monitoring project.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality also approved penalties totaling $453,838 against 71 regulated entities for violations of state environmental regulations.

Agreed orders were issued for the following enforcement categories: one agricultural, 13 air quality, one Edwards Aquifer, one industrial waste discharge, one licensed irrigator, seven multi-media, three municipal solid waste, seven municipal waste discharge, 18 petroleum storage tank, six public water system, and five water quality.

There were three field citations. In addition, default orders were issued for the following categories: one licensed irrigator, two multi-media, one municipal solid waste and one public water system.

The TCEQ's next agenda meeting is scheduled for Jan. 13.