"Workers at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery in South Philadelphia began neutralizing tens of thousands of barrels of a highly toxic chemical this week. The refinery is shutting down after an explosion and fire destroyed part of the plant. The company has entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The chemical, hydrofluoric acid, is one of the most dangerous industrial substances in use. Refineries use it as a catalyst to create high-octane fuel and it was an integral part of the unit that exploded at PES back in June.
The company’s own risk management plan, filed with the Environmental Protection Agency as a requirement under the Clean Air Act, describes a catastrophic worst-case scenario involving hydrofluoric acid. If 143,262 pounds of hydrogen fluoride were released over 10 minutes, a toxic cloud could travel for more than seven miles and affect more than a million people, including in schools, homes, hospitals, prisons, playgrounds, parks, and a wildlife sanctuary."