Refinery Blast Fire Finally Declared ‘Under Control' By Philadelphia Fire Department

Fire officials said it remains undetermined if the city will charge the bankrupt refinery owner for the costs of the months-long firefighting operation.

What to Know

  • About 4 a.m. June 21, a mixture of butane and propane ignited a fire that caused three explosions that could be seen for miles.
  • About 280 members of United Steelworkers Local received notice in August that they are being laid off.
  • The massive site of the gas refinery, which for decades has been Philadelphia's biggest pollutant, has an uncertain future.

The explosion and subsequent fire that destroyed a portion of a huge gas refinery in South Philadelphia in June has finally been declared "under control" by city fire officials.

The declaration is a technical term by the Fire Department that comes well after the flames were put out, but marks another step in the efforts to close out the case of the June 21 blast at Philadelphia Energy Solutions.

It comes well after the owner of the refinery, once the largest on the East Coast, declared bankruptcy and nearly 300 employees were given pink slips.

City fire officials also said at a press conference Tuesday that it was yet to be determined if the City of Philadelphia would seek reimbursement for the costs of months-long firefighting operations at the site.

Bankruptcy proceedings are underway in federal court in Philadelphia, and the future of the site remains uncertain.

NBC10 cameras were rolling as an explosion occured at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery in South Philadelphia around 4:22 a.m. Friday, June 21, 2019.

The president of the union representing workers at the refinery said last month that he hopes a new owner will put in a bid to buy the facility.

"Only one unit out of 30 units have been damaged," he said of the effects from the June blast. "This is a viable enterprise."

The Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery owes billions to city and state governments even after it came out of bankruptcy last year, according to public and court records.

For decades, it has been the single-biggest polluter in Philadelphia. Even after PES comes out of bankruptcy, a sale of the site is uncertain.

Any potential owner who didn't want to continue using the facility as a refinery would face costly, years-long remediation efforts.

The refinery complex is technically split into two refineries and dates back to the 1800s  — producing gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other fuel. It is the single largest cause of particulate pollution in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Energy Solutions emerged from bankruptcy protection in October 2018. At the time, the limited liability company owed the local and state government more than $3 billion. The amounts were negotiated down to tens of thousands of dollars.

Pictures: South Philadelphia Refinery Explosion and Fire

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