University of Delaware
delware environmental institute

News Journal: Citizen groups dispute plan; coalition calls refinery's cooling unit "inadequate"

A rare coalition of environmental groups and public officials has stepped up to pressure the state regarding the Delaware City Refinery’s daily use of 300 million gallons of Delaware River water. New Castle County Executive Tom Gordon, 13 state lawmakers and 32 environmental organizations signed on to letter describing as “inadequate” a proposed Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control permit for the refinery’s water intake and discharges. They’re urging the agency to uphold an earlier recommendation for a cooling tower system that would recycle water and better screen out fish.

The 5,000-acre refinery, which can refine 191,000 barrels of crude oil daily, uses a 1950s-era design to draw in water to cool equipment before discharging the heated water into the river.

Critics say the system is outdated and the state should do more to protect the environment. The last five-year permit was issued in 1997. The refinery has been operating under permit extensions since 2002.