EPA investigates refinery incident at request of Swinomish Tribe

The Shell Puget Sound Refinery in Anacortes, Washington. Photo by Walter Siegmund / Wikipedia

The Environmental Protection Agency is investigating an oil refinery after work at the facility caused health problems for members of the Swinomish Tribe in Washington.

Elderly and young members had trouble breathing due to strange odors from the Shell refinery in Anacortes, about six miles north of the reservation. Some even ended up in the hospital.

"Scary couple of moments," Allan Olson, the tribe's general manager, told King 5 News. "A lot of people getting headaches. Didn't know what it was. Didn't know whether it was toxic or not."

The facility said tests showed the odor was not toxic. But the tribe and other neighbors weren't informed about the work that caused the problem in the first place.

"An internal investigation team has been launched to determine the exact cause of the odor, and we will not be resuming this piece of work until we are confident the cause has been determined and corrected,: Shell said in a press release. "Operations are stable at the facility, and we have been in touch with the appropriate regulatory agencies."

National Congress of American Indians President Brian Cladoosby at the opening session of the group's winter session in Washington, D.C. Photo by Indianz.Com

National Congress of American Indians President Brian Cladoosby, the tribe's chairman, discussed the incident this morning at the group's winter session in Washington, D.C. His 81-year-old father spent Friday night in the hospital and he said at least one infant was hospitalized as well.

"I'm not going to let them get away with crapping over Indian people all over again," Cladoosby said. “Enough is enough. This has to stop."

Cladoosby thanked the EPA for acting quickly on the tribe's complaints. Administrator Gina McCarthy is scheduled to address NCAI this afternoon.

Get the Story:
Refinery odor sickens Swinomish tribal members (KING 5 News 2/23)
Harsh chemical odor in Skagit County coming from Shell refinery, sheriff’s office says (Q13 2/20)

Related Stories
National Congress of American Indians set for winter conference (2/23)

Join the Conversation