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Suncor Energy is facing a $2.2 million fine for leaking unsafe amounts of benzene, a cancer-causing chemical, into the environment, said the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

State inspectors discovered violations of state and federal requirements during an inspection of the Commerce City, CO, refinery in the summer of 2010.

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Suncor failed to properly inspect and maintain equipment vital to the handling of benzene in process wastewater, CDPHE officials said.

“As a result, Suncor exceeded the allowable uncontrolled benzene quantity in both 2008 and 2009. The national emission standard for benzene waste operations applies to equipment and processes that treat, store or dispose of benzene waste,” said Will Allison, Air Pollution Control Division director for the CDPHE.

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In December 2011, a massive cleanup effort started up after an oily black sludge containing benzene leaked into the Sand Creek waterway, which feeds the South Platte River, from Suncor.

“We have no evidence to suggest the benzene-related violations discovered during our 2010 inspection are connected to the circumstances that led to the Sand Creek contamination,” Allison said.

Suncor also failed to conduct periodic equipment inspections, implement an annual training program for employees and complete the development of standard operating procedures for certain control equipment, officials said.

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