MOUNT VERNON, Wash. (AP) — Multiple members of a tribal community in Washington state have reported that they experienced burning throats and headaches after flaring at a nearby shell refinery released an intoxicating odor on Tuesday.
Swinomish Police Lt. Earl Cowan said the residents of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community made several calls to the department reporting their health reactions and smells like rotten eggs and burning rubber, the Skagit Valley Herald reported.
Flares are used by refineries to safely burn off excess hydrocarbon gases. The process combines the gases with steam or air and then burns the mixture to produce water vapor and carbon dioxide.
Skagit County Undersheriff Chad Clark said the sheriff’s office received an emergency notification from the Shell Puget Sound Refinery about 10 a.m. The department later posted an advisory around noon encouraging residents to stay indoors.
The refinery said in Facebook post around 1 p.m. that operations had stabilized and that air quality monitoring near the site was being conducted in response to the complaints. Shell later apologized.
“We regret that this odor took place. ... We are resolved to learn from this incident and will do our best to prevent this type of incident in the future,” the statement said.
The Northwest Clean Air Agency, which enforces air quality regulations in the region, is investigating.
“We are talking with officials at the Shell refinery about the flaring issue they experienced, and we are also talking with Swinomish tribal representatives,” agency spokesperson Seth Preston said.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was also contacted.