PES Explosion

PES explosion on June 21, 2019. Photo credit to NBC Philadelphia.

In South Jersey, this year we have a big reason to be grateful.

In June, according to a recent report from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB), a million residents of South Jersey and Pennsylvania narrowly escaped exposure to hydrofluoric acid, a highly toxic gas, after a preventable series of explosions at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery.

When the explosion took place at 4 am, a control system operator immediately hit a switch to move the deadly hydrofluoric acid into a separate drum out of danger. Three other refinery workers fought flames to shut valves supplying fuel to the fire.

The reward for these brave workers, all members of United Steelworkers Local 10-1? They lost their jobs, along with over 1,000 others. We’re lucky this disaster did not cause any loss of life. But it’s inexcusable that so many residents were put at risk and so many workers lost their livelihoods due to apparent negligence by company executives — who paid themselves $4.5 million in bonuses just two weeks after the incident.

Read the full opinion-editorial piece in the South Jersey Times by Debra Coyle McFadden, WEC Executive Director here.