Tacoma port suffers blackout, oily refinery fallout
The Port of Tacoma suffered an hour-long blackout Monday, causing evacuations, precautionary fire department actions and a discharge of oily soot by an area refinery.
The initial power outage occurred at about 6:50 a.m., following the collision of a piece of cargo handling equipment with a power pole in the port, according to port officials. The outage affected a wide area of the port and interrupted operations at the nearby U.S. Oil & Refinery Co., the largest privately held petroleum refiner in the Puget Sound area.
The loss of power at the refinery, according to U.S. Oil officials, resulted in a discharge of partially refined crude oil through one of the facility's stacks, where it was burned off. According to the firm, the venting and flare were part of the planned response to such a situation, however, the power failure caused a relief valve to spray unrefined crude oil into the flare stack. The burn off sent a plume of oily black smoke over the port. Several early-morning port workers, returning to work after a two-hour evacuation of the area by the Tacoma Fire Department, reported that the smoke settled to leave an oily residue across a wide area.
Refinery officials reported that only a small amount of oil was actually vented and the outage caused no damage to the facility.
Power to the port area, including about 7,300 local residents also affected, was restored within about an hour and no injuries were reported due to the outage.
TFD hazardous materials personnel sprayed foam in a precautionary move to suppress the formation of flammable vapors.