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Report shows power failure at Suncor sent toxic gases into air

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- A report that Suncor Energy submitted to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment details the toxic gases its refinery emitted after experiencing a power outage last week.

According to the report, the refinery released more than 500 pounds of sulfur dioxide and 100 pounds of hydrogen sulfide into air as well as high levels of carbon monoxide.

A spokesman for the company said the oil refinery requires a continuous power feed to operate. Xcel Energy's power failure on March 11 triggered safety mechanisms at the refinery, more commonly referred to as flares from the stacks, to release pressure.

The power failure "temporarily caused an inability to comply with emission limits."

Suncor immediately started monitoring air quality in nearby neighborhoods and found no issues that violated air-quality standards.

However, some neighbors near the refinery said the toxic gases made them feel sick this week.

"You could smell it, totally, in the air," said Michael Sandoval. "I just felt  nauseous."

This is the second time in six months that a power outage has caused the refinery to release toxic gases into the air.

"It's bad. It's bad for the community," said Sandoval. "It was concerning. I felt like going into their headquarters and talking to somebody."

Though neighbors like the Lay's disagree. They've lived near the refinery for 60 years and say it hasn't impacted their health.

"We didn't know about it until it was over with. You know we have lived near there and had the chemicals all these years and they have never bothered us so we don't think about it," Joyce Lay said.

"As long as it don't blow up, it don't bother me any," Robert Lay said.

"CDPHE's initial review of the available air quality data showed the measured concentrations of air pollutants at monitoring sites around the Suncor refinery did not exceed the health-based ambient air quality standards during the power outage at Suncor," Mark Salley with CDPHE said in an email.