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USA – Co-op Refinery Fined $280K After Fire

reginaFor its role in an explosion and fire in October 2011 that injured 52 workers, a provincial court judge sentenced the Regina Consumers’ Co-operative Refineries Ltd., on Tuesday to a $200,000 fine.

In addition, the refinery was ordered to pay an $80,000 victims of crime surcharge.
On Jan. 22, the company pleaded guilty to a charge under the Occupational Health and Safety Act that the refinery failed to ensure that all work was sufficiently and competently supervised.

Crown prosecutor Michael Segu told court that on Oct. 6, 2011, a corroded six-inch diameter reactor effluent line that carried partially refined diesel fuel, hydrogen gas, water, nitrogen, ammonia and hydrogen sulphide gas ruptured.

The rupture ignited the various gases inside and triggered four other explosions and a fireball.

The rupture occurred at normal operating pressure, explained Segu.

The pipe was installed by private contractors in 1960 or 1961, but it was the wrong pipe and thickness.

“(The refinery) was responsible for supervising the initial installation of the pipe and for ensuring the proper schedule pipe was installed throughout the facility,” he said.

The sentence was a joint submission of the Crown and defence lawyer Ron Gates. The maximum fine under the act was $300,000.

Twelve victim impact statements were submitted to the court. Segu read three to the court from Irene Rombaut, Shawn Farrell and Vasiharathas Subramaniyam. Subramaniyam and Rombaut were in the courtroom but chose not to read their statements.

The victims said they believed they would be safe working at the refinery. On the day of the explosion, the three suffered serious injuries and burns. They also said they were disappointed that the company didn’t apologize or inquire about their well-being while in hospital.

Subramaniyam suffered a first-degree burn to his face. A dark patch remains constantly reminding him of that day. Besides the physical injuries, Subramaniyam said he suffers from nightmares, headaches and flashbacks. He took sleeping pills and later turned to alcohol to sleep and forget what happened.

Rombaut recalled seeing the fear in co-workers’ eyes and hearing screaming after the explosions. She also recalled Farrell lying hurt on the ground.

When Rombaut woke up in the hospital, her daughter was at her bedside crying. Rombaut suffered second-degree burns to her face, ears, neck, wrists, right shoulder and parts of her back. Rombaut also sustained burns to her lips, the inside of her mouth and lungs.

After the sentencing, Rombaut said she wasn’t surprised with the outcome but had hoped the refinery would have received a higher fine.

“I think the public needs to be more aware (about) what happened and what could still happen,” Rombaut said, adding she is concerned for the safety of friends and relatives still working at the refinery.

Gates told the judge the refinery needed 30 days to pay the fine and surcharge. Instead, the judge gave the refinery two months to pay.

Rombaut and Farrell are part of an ongoing civil suit filed against the refinery.
Another explosion occurred at the refinery on Dec. 23, 2013, after a bypass line ruptured when water froze inside and expanded. An investigation by the fire marshal and the Technical Safety Authority of Saskatchewan resulted in 10 recommendations. No one was injured in that incident.

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