Herman Seedorf, plant manager for PBF Energy's Delaware City refinery, publicly apologized to Middletown's mayor and council and those in attendance at council's monthly meeting Monday evening for the strong odors that wafted from the plant over into the town's borders Feb. 5.
The odor that was released into the air was caused by a substance called Mercaptan, which is used in small quantities to odorize natural gas, Seedorf said.
"We had some Mercaptan wind up in our storm sewer," he said. "It was only a few gallons, but from the storm sewer, it was then processed into our waste water, and from there it tends to odorize."
Seedorf said if an incident like this occurs, refinery officials perform a root-cause analysis in order to fully understand what caused the problem and how the company can make sure it does not happen again.
"I want to personally apologize for you and your residents for that event," Seedorf told the town council. "We've operated pretty well up until then, but that one was something we would have preferred not to happen.
"I can commit to you that we've done our best to make sure that will not happen again," he added.
Vice-Mayor Jim Reynolds asked Seedorf if, in the event a similar incident does happen, whether there is an alert that will go out to the refinery's surrounding communities.
"We were flooded with phone calls, the school district was flooded with phone calls, and in turn, they called us," Reynolds explained. "The fire company was out riding all around town trying to locate the smell. Is there going to be an alert put out to the town so that everyone isn't riding around town looking for this thing?"
Seedorf and the refinery's community relations manager Lisa Lindsey, said that Lindsey now has a system in place in which she would put in a call to the Town of Middletown's public information officer Kristen Krenzer, who would then disseminate the information to the Middletown community.
Seedorf also encouraged Middletown-area residents to call the refinery's 24-hour hotline if they have any questions or concerns. The hotline is accessible at (302) 834-6200.
Tours of the refinery are also available, Seedorf said.
"Many times, these refineries develop a mystique to them, that there's something beyond those gates that people should be worried about," he said. "If you come to the refinery, we'll give you a tour and show you what's going on inside."