Environmental Conservation

Delaware City Refinery Killing
Massive Numbers of Fish

Action Needed: Force Refinery to Adopt Better Technology

Click on photo for full-size version.

The photo on the right shows some of the piles of dead fish scraped from the Delaware City Refinery's cooling water intake and wastefully dumped in the nearby field.

The Delaware City Refinery extracts on average over 303 million gallons of water from the Delaware River daily, for the purpose of cooling plant equipment and units as it processes nearly 200,000 barrels of petroleum per day. In the process, it impinges millions of fish on the intake screens, killing them, and entrains millions more small fish, eggs and larvae that circulate through the refinery's cooling system pipes and get boiled to death.

We recently learned that a major flaring and air pollution release at the refinery was caused by a lack of cooling water due to the screens being plugged by so many fish that they could not get cooling water to the refinery.

Despite the severe environmental impact on the Delaware River fishery and air quality, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) continues to ignore the issue. They have not updated the water intake permit for over a decade, and will likely not improve the situation, unless the public speaks out on this issue.

This is due to the agreement brokered by Governor Markell specifying that "Permit will include a compliance schedule for implementation of the BTA [Best Available Technology] determination which will require DCRC to take such actions as necessary to construct the BTA during the five year period following the first five years of the New Discharge Permit term" (Agreement Governing the Acquisition and Operation of the Delaware City Refinery, May 31, 2010, pg. 21). DNREC technical staff have already determined that the best way to fix this problem would be to build a close loop system, that recycles the water rather than continually taking it from the River. Building it would also employ many of our pipefitters, welders, and others in Delaware. It would create high paying jobs.

Delaware Audubon Society is committed to reversing this shortsighted and environmentally damaging commitment that Governor Markell made to allow the continued excessive killing of Delaware River Fish for another 10 years. This is an insult to Delaware's Coastal Zone and a damaging environmental legacy we will have to live with for many years if not corrected.