Suncor malfunction released hundreds of pounds of toxic gases in Commerce City

Officials: No health risk to community

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- When Liliana Amaro Flores saw the giant plume of fire coming from the Suncor refinery Saturday, she pulled out her cell phone camera to document it from her street.

“Sometimes it smells like rotten eggs, sometimes it just smells like chemicals,” said Amaro Flores. "It's concerning. And it's not the first time."

In a report filed with state health officials and first reported by The Denver Post, Suncor refinery states that hundreds of pounds of toxic gases were released into the air Saturday, following an Xcel power outage.

The report states that more than 100 pounds of hydrogen sulfide, a potentially deadly chemical, and more than 500 pounds of sulfur dioxide, which can cause breathing issues, were sent into the air.

A Suncor spokesman said the company has since been conducting 24-7 air monitoring in the neighboring communities, and the air quality readings are within required limits.

"No. I don't believe it," said Lorette Martinez, who has lived in the Swansea neighborhood for 37 years and said she has lost track of the number of refinery scares. "It just keeps happening."

Last October, she remembers the orange cloud of toxic emissions that triggered road closures and warnings to stay inside her home.

"I’m asthmatic, so I make sure I close my windows, make sure not to breathe it in — I’ve got my vaporizer and my nebulizer," Martinez said.

State health officials said they have opened four possible air quality violation cases against Suncor since 2013.

In a statement, a Suncor spokesman pointed a finger at Xcel stating, "We are one of Xcel’s largest customers, and Xcel understands our business’ unique needs. Suncor is looking to Xcel to advise us as to what they are doing to ensure they are providing reliable power supply to the refinery, as well as what changes they are making to prevent incidents like the one that occurred on March 11."

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