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Climate and Environment

LA County Supes Call On State To 'Phase Out' Deadly Chemical Use Near Communities

Smoke and flame at the Torrance Refinery
An explosion at the Torrance Refinery in 2015 caused four minor injuries and prompted an outcry from environmentalists and community groups.
(Daniella Segura
LAist )
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Two local oil refineries, Torrance Refinery and Valero's Wilmington Refinery continue to use Modified Hydrofluoric Acid, or MHF, which can turn into a flesh-eating traveling fog when exposed to air.

Los Angeles County Supervisors are calling on the state to phase out the deadly chemical completely — on the seventh anniversary of the 2015 Torrance Refinery explosion when a huge piece of debris narrowly missed a tank of MHF.

Supervisor Janice Hahn says it was far too close a call.

"If it had been released within minutes, it could have killed people in Torrance; it could have maimed people in Torrance. We could have had a major disaster, and I'm not even sure our local hospitals would have been prepared," she said.

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The motion, spearheaded by Hahn, points out that the two refineries are near underserved communities already burdened and vulnerable to pollution.

"The Torrance Refinery is adjacent to the Harbor Gateway South neighborhood, which is among the most pollution-burdened communities in the state," Hahn wrote in the motion. "The Valero Refinery is in a Wilmington neighborhood and is adjacent to the City of Long Beach. The neighborhoods surrounding the Valero refinery are also among the most burdened in the state."

The board is sending a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom and State Attorney General Rob Bonta asking that the state "take all possible actions to require refineries" to use "safer alternatives" to MHF.

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