DROPLETS of a “black grease-like” chemical used to refine petrol have showered at least three properties near the Viva Refinery in Corio.

Testing by Viva has revealed di-isopropanolamine used to remove hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide from gases was released into the air from its flare stack last week and fell onto a Lowe St home and businesses.

Corio resident Ian Ballis, who lives about 400 metres from refinery, said his property was covered in droplets of the liquid after an intense burn-off at the refinery last Friday.

“When I walked out of my house I noticed an oil substance dotted over everything and once I investigated found it over our three-acre site,” Mr Ballis said.

“We’re used to smelling oil here but it was a weird smell this time. It seems the flare is higher on hotter days.”

Mr Ballis said large smoke plumes were emitted from the flare stack on Friday evening and the flame was “about six times as high as usual”.

“Viva have been to degrease a site near Distillery Logistics (on Lowe St).

“They’ve got to wash everything (on my property) I’ve got about 50,000 items in my yard.”

Mr Ballis said Viva should bear the cost of clean-up to properties and business following the burn-off.

Distillery Logistics owner John MacTier said a similar incident had occurred in recent years. “We’ve had this happen before and Viva would just brush it under the table.”

Mr MacTier said his business caught fire five years ago when “little bits of fluid on fire” emitted from Viva landed on his Lowe St property.

Speaking about the latest incident, he said: “We just want to know what it is and why it’s here.”

A Viva Energy spokesman said the substance was first seen at a site near the refinery on the morning of March 2.

“Viva Energy attended the site immediately and workers were sent home as a precaution pending further investigation. Both EPA Victoria and WorkSafe were notified,” the spokesman said.

“Initial testing of the ­substance has found it to be ­di-isopropanolamine (DIPA), which is a chemical used as part of the refining process.

“Investigations into the cause of the release are continuing and we are working with neighbouring industries on the wellbeing of their workers.

“A clean-up plan has been developed, in consultation with EPA Victoria, and clean-up is progressing.

An EPA inspection report seen by the Geelong Advertiser states: “(The) EPA will continue to investigate the industrial waste emission from Viva Energy’s flare stack and will likely issue a clean up notice to assess the extent of impact the emission has had and to clean up impacted areas.”

Extracted from Courier Mail