BAKERSFIELD - Should there be concerns about the Alon Refinery just south of Rosedale Highway?
That's a question many in the community are asking after a third party audit shows the facility has dozens of environmental health and safety issues, nine of which are classified as high-risk.
In 2012 the Board of Supervisors made the audit a requirement, after chemical leaks were recorded at the facility.
The refinery isn't operational now. According to facility documents, the refinery right now is acting as a storage facility and distribution center, but does not make fuel. There is a possibility the facility could ramp up to full operations, but this audit shows it's nowhere near ready.
"This refinery is located in a very populated area. When it was built, it wasn't that way," said Matt Constantine, Director of Kern County Public Health.
Now the location just south of Rosedale Highway between Coffee Road and Highway 99, is near some 14,600 homes in a two-mile radius.
Under multiple owners, the refinery has had issues including a hydrogen sulfide leak in May 2011 and multiple other chemical releases, according to Constantine. So in 2012, the county required the company undergo a one-time third party audit. That happened in May, but was discussed Tuesday at the Board of Supervisors meeting.
"So we went to it and looked at processes and programs and interviewed staff to get a snapshot at what was happening at the facility," said Lindsay Polic, principle consultant for EORM, the company that performed the third party audit.
The consultant company said it found during its three-day tour, 49 environmental health and safety issues, nine of which were high-risk.
"Those are based on insuring the safety of the environment and the safety of the community," said Constantine about the high-risk issues.
The audit states the facility is aging and maintenance continues to be lacking and would require up to two years of work for the backlog to be completed. The county says the owner of the refinery, Paramount Petroleum's Alon, is not required to remedy the problems although it verbally agreed to do so.
"We're continuing to work with Kern County Health, Matt Constantine and his team to resolve all of the issues associated with the audit," said Glenn Clausen, Vice President of West Coast Refinery of Alon's Paramount Petroleum Corporation.
These improvements include installing onsite weather stations and toxic gas monitors along the perimeter. The weather sites would allow first responders to detect which way the wind blew a possible chemical leak.
"What we're trying to do is prevent, detect, and provide information about any other releases that could occur," said Constantine.
In addition to the audit, the company was required to send out a safety brochure and sign up and pay for the county's Reverse 911 system, Ready Kern, to alert residents if a leak occurs.
In the four years Alon has owned the refinery, Constantine said they have had no recorded OSHA violations.