News bites: Oil prices stabilize, dolphins are dying in the Gulf, and more

The Center for Public Integrity has a meaty investigation into the use of hydrofluoric acid, a chemical that can cause series health problems, in oil refineries.

“Despite decades-old warnings that the compound, commonly called HF, could cause mass casualties — and despite the availability of a safer alternative — 50 of the nation’s 148 refineries continue to rely on it,” the center reports.

“At least 16 million Americans, many of them unaware of the threat, live in the potential path of HF if it were to be released in an accident or a terrorist attack, a joint investigation by the Center for Public Integrity and ABC News has found.”

It’s the first in a three-part series. The next installment will run on Monday.

ProPublica has a solid story on the effects of natural-gas drilling, or “fracking,” on one man’s water supply.

“[Louis] Meeks used to have abundant water on his small alfalfa ranch, a 40-acre plot speckled with apple and plum trees northeast of the Wind River Mountains and about five miles outside the town of Pavillion [Wyoming]. For 35 years he drew it clear and sweet from a well just steps from the front door of the plain, eight-room ranch house that he owns with his wife, Donna. Neighbors would stop off the rural dirt road on their way to or from work in the gas fields to fill plastic jugs; the water was better than at their own homes,” ProPublica reports.

“But in the spring of 2005, Meeks’ water had turned fetid. His tap ran cloudy, and the water shimmered with rainbow swirls across a filmy top. The scent was sharp, like gasoline.”

And dolphins are dying in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The death toll of dolphins found washed ashore along the U.S. Gulf Coast since last month climbed to nearly 60 on Thursday, as puzzled scientists clamored to determine what was killing the marine mammals,” Reuters reports.