Newcastle, Wyoming's oil refinery was originally opened for business in the late 1930's under the ownership of Tesoro Crude Oil Company. Over the years it has been run by Sioux Oil Company, Gray Oil Company and it currently rests under the guidance of the Wyoming Refinery Company. The facility is capable of producing up to 12,500 barrels of oil during any full work day.
The Environmental Protection Agency took an interest in the Newcastle plant in 1988, as they worked together with the State of Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to monitor the ground water contaminant levels around the plant. In 1997, the groups had discovered that two of the tanks were releasing a large amount of pollutants, and by 2000 they had issued an official decree to the refinery owners that this must be fixed. The studies continued throughout 2005 and 2006, and there have been more demands upon the plant for essential repair work to be done. The Wyoming Refinery Company is currently working to bring all of their systems officially up to code.
A Class Action Lawsuit was filed against the Wyoming Refinery Company in 2002, following a large spill at the plant. Estimates suggest that nearly 20 tons of a chemical known as silica catalyst were released from the plant in just under 12 hours. Local residents claimed that the accident was not only a large nuisance which covered nearby neighborhoods in a brown colored dust that had to be cleaned up and dealt with, it was also a major health hazard. People reported developing respiratory issues and breaking out in painful rashes after coming into contact with the chemcial. One month after the incident, a second spill at the facility made the situation even worse. The company settled the lawsuit with the citizens, although the exact amount each claimant received is unknown because the resulting records were officially sealed.
Since its beginning, the plant has faced numerous health related problems, including one that affected the workers inside the plant itself. Like most refineries, the Newcastle plant utilized several products that were made out of asbestos, a naturally occurring material that was commonly used in construction and industrial products many years ago. Ongoing research showed the material to be hazardous, and a cause of respiratory damage and even cancer. Plant workers who were exposed to these products were put at risk of developing these illnesses, and should notify their doctors about that risk as soon as possible.
Last modified: December 09, 2009.