In a corner of Delaware County still reeling from Sunoco's decision to sell or close its local refinery, Tuesday's announcement by another major employer, ConocoPhillips, to do the same felt like a death blow.
At the Marcus Hook Trainer Fire Company, all eyes were glued to a television waiting for the news reports on ConocoPhillips' plan to immediately begin shutting down its operation at its Trainer facility. The refinery will permanently close if a buyer is not found in the next six months.
About 410 employees work at the ConocoPhillips facility.
On Sept. 6, Sunoco said it would sell its refineries in South Philadelphia and Marcus Hook, which borders Trainer. If there are no buyers, the plant would close in July 2012.
"Just take these two towns off the map if these [refineries] shut down," said John Clausen, 35, a deputy fire chief of Marcus Hook.
The loss of jobs and taxes for the community, county, and school district will be hard to make up locally in a community already struggling with hard times.
"It will have a devastating effect on the entire area," said Tony Capasso, president of the Marcus Hook Trainer Fire Company. The "ripple effect" will impact local businesses and communities across the lower part of Delaware County and northern Delaware as oil workers either move or join unemployment rolls, he said.
The fire company, already struggling to maintain a volunteer base, will most likely lose the "substantial donations" from both companies, he said, grimly.
Much of the frustration about the refineries, poor economy, and lack of jobs was directed at politicians at the local, county, state, and federal levels.
Raleigh "Bye" Heacock, 70, of Marcus Hook, worried that increasing taxes might eventually cost him his home.
"Our town is already suffering from people moving out," said the retired operator at Sunoco. The politicians, he said, have not been thinking ahead and have saddled taxpayers with costly projects.
Trainer Mayor Francis Zalewski and Council President John Mathews did not return calls for comment.
Jack Whelan, Delaware County Council chairman, said he was concerned about the preservation of jobs and potential loss of business: "It is like one punch after another."
Irv Beerson, owner of the 99-year-old Marcus Hook Hardware Co. on Tenth Street, has managed to weather the competition from larger big-box stores. But he still worries about the future without the manufacturing companies.
"How much can this small business community carry in the future?" Beerson asked. "The only hope you have down here is that someone comes in and buys it."