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Anacortes Oil Refinery, January 2010. Photo by trhnlhi.

Anacortes Oil Refinery, January 2010. Photo by trhnlhi.


Federal Investigation Of Tesoro Refinery Explosion

John Ryan

Federal investigators headed to Anacortes on Friday to investigate the explosion that killed four workers at the Tesoro refinery that morning. Three others who were airlifted to Harborview Hospital remained in critical condition with burns over most of their bodies.


The Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has dispatched a team of four investigators from Washington, D.C. The federal agency is charged with investigating serious chemical accidents.

The Safety Board has eighteen ongoing investigations. Seven of those involve accidents at oil refineries.

CSB spokespeople could not be reached for comment this afternoon. But in a press release, the head of the CSB said the high frequency of chemical accidents at refineries is a "disturbing trend that the refining industry needs to address immediately."

State regulators fined the Tesoro plant $85,000 last year for 17 "serious" safety and health violations. In a settlement, the state reduced the fine and the number of violations. In exchange, Tesoro agreed to hire a third–party safety auditor to inspect and address all of the plant's alleged violations.

The safety audit began in January; no results have been released. Hector Castro is a spokesman for the Department of Labor and Industries.

Castro: "There's no question that petroleum refineries are highly hazardous operations. That's why inspections like these are critical."

Labor and Industries has sent its own team of four inspectors to Anacortes. Castro says they hope to determine whether the explosion was related to any of the safety hazards identified last year.

Environmental officials say they've seen no evidence of any oil spill from the explosion. They don't know what hazardous materials may have been sent into the air.

Investigators have not been allowed closer than a couple blocks away until emergency officials determine the site is safe to enter. Curt Hart is a spokesman for the Department of Ecology.

Hart: "The U.S. Coast Guard did kind of a perimeter check earlier this morning, did not see anything that may have gotten into the water."

Emergency crews put the fire out about 2:00 a.m. Friday. Hart says any runoff from the firefighting effort would be captured by the refinery's wastewater treatment facilities before entering Puget Sound. Investigations into the causes of the explosion are expected to take months.

I'm John Ryan, KUOW News.

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