Suncor refinery released 75,600 pounds of sulfur dioxide after power outage

A yellow plume emerges from the Suncor refinery in Commerce City on Oct. 14, 2016. (Courtesy Gordon Eaton)
A yellow plume emerges from the Suncor refinery in Commerce City on Oct. 14, 2016. (Courtesy Gordon Eaton)

The yellow and black smoke that poured out of the Suncor refinery earlier this month contained 150 times the federal daily limit for sulfur dioxide, the Denver Post reports.

At the time, a Suncor spokesman said no sulfur dioxide was detected at ground level, and there was no risk to human health. However, in a letter to Colorado and Adams County emergency management obtained by the Post, company officials said that 75,600 pounds of sulfur dioxide were released in the incident. The 24-hour limit is 500 pounds.

“There are no known or anticipated acute or chronic health risks associated with the release, and there is no need for persons to take any precautions or seek medical attention related to this release,” the company said in the letter.

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment officials told the Post that because an Xcel Energy power outage caused the refinery release, Suncor probably won’t be penalized.

However, Suncor is under ongoing investigation for previous environmental problems, including excessive sulfur dioxide emissions.

In 2012, Suncor paid a $2.2 million penalty for air quality violations related to benzene pollution.

Erica Meltzer

Author: Erica Meltzer

Erica Meltzer covers government and politics. She's worked for newspapers in Colorado, Arizona and Illinois and once won a First Amendment Award by showing up in the wrong place at the wrong time. She served in the Peace Corps in Paraguay and can swear fluently in Guarani. She gets emotional about public libraries. Contact Erica Meltzer at 303-502-2802, emeltzer@denverite.com or @meltzere.