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Parents claim fumes from Woods Cross refinery made children sick

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Posted at 10:46 PM, May 20, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-21 00:46:19-04

WOODS CROSS, Utah -- Fumes that spewed from a Woods Cross refinery last week caused hundreds of school children to go home early, complaining they were sick.

Parents told city leaders Tuesday night that firefighters and the refinery should have been more proactive.

"I feel like this was mismanaged in some ways,” said Beth Brown, a Woods Cross mother.

A tank containing a waxy crude substance overheated and burst at Silver Eagle Refinery last Thursday.

The day after the incident fumes still lingered. More than 500 students at Legacy Preparatory Academy went home early, complaining of feeling sick.

"Just like a sore throat and a headache, some with respiratory problems had to call immediately," said student Taysia Dopson.

Firefighters and health officials determined that the fumes weren’t toxic so students weren’t evacuated. But at a Woods Cross City Council meeting Tuesday night, the South Davis Metro Fire chief acknowledged that decision was made with limited air monitoring equipment and some parents think firefighters should have evacuated the school as a precaution and based on students’ complaints.

"The children … (in some cases) were laying on the floor, taking naps because they were exhausted, they had headaches because their eyes were burning," said Maren Hilbig, a concerned parent.

"We should have been alerted that our children were put at risk before going to school that day," Brown said.

Firefighters say air monitors only found elevated levels of PM 10 particulate matter. They also had that initial access and communication with the refinery was limited.

"The way we were notified was from a police officer driving by," said fire chief Jeff Bassett.

The city of Woods Cross is now taking a closer look at how the incident was managed, considering a reverse 911 call should a similar incident happen.

Meanwhile, Silver Eagle’s manager says for now, the refinery has shut down the tank and will not store the waxy crude product, also known as “ATBs.”

"We will not store ATBs until we understand what the issue was, what the problem was and we can affect some sort of a fix to that," said general manager Jerry Lockie.

Lockie adds that he expects the refinery will face a nuisance violation. The Davis County Health Department is still investigating and plans to meet with the refinery officials Friday.

Silver Eagle also must submit a report two weeks after the incident to the Division of Air Quality who is taking a closer look at the incident but says the refinery’s permits are in good standing.