DENVER (CBS4) – Suncor Energy says in the next few days it will restart the equipment that released a clay-like substance and ash into the air. The Colorado Air Pollution Control Division investigated last month, when all that material rained down on the surrounding area.
The division tells CBS4 it is still analyzing the substance released that day and has since installed three new air quality monitors around the refinery. Still, some community leaders want to look at the immediate response to all of this and say the company and state can do more in the future.
"All we know is that a company said it was safe, the government was unprepared, and we're left holding the bag," said Ean Tafoya, leader of the Colorado Latino Forum.
On December 11th, a clay-like catalyst spewed from the refinery causing ash to cover cars and homes in several surrounding communities. The company said the substance was non-hazardous, and the result of putting too much torch oil into what's called a fluidized catalytic cracker unit.
"We want to better understand what happened, we want to understand what was in this substance that was emitted from the plant," said State Representative Alex Valdez, who represents the Globeville and Elyria-Swansea neighborhoods.
Valdez is one of several state lawmakers who have been outspoken about Suncor. Following the incident, the group wrote a letter to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, urging an investigation.
The group has since toured the facility.
"We got an overview, we were able to have some dialogue with the people at the Suncor plant," Rep. Valdez said. "We appreciate that, but I think what we really want to do is have third party understanding of what's going on behind those gates and how we can prevent incidents like what happened in December from happening again."
Another major concern for some community leaders is how the state handles such scares.
"Do we even have a real great safety plan that's going to connect people with the problems and solutions from the beginning?" asked Tafoya. "Do we have a protocol to collect samples?"
The Colorado Air Pollution Control Division is currently analyzing dust samples from the site. Nearby air monitors found particulate matter levels at the time didn't exceed national ambient air quality standards, a spokesperson said.
A representative from Suncor released the following statement:
"We are continuing the unit start-up in a slow and planned manner. If this process is suspended, we will notify the community."
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