March 21, 2023

Well being officers in Contra Costa County are on the lookout for an reason they weren’t notified after a hazardous substance leaked into the air from an oil refinery for hours beginning on Thanksgiving night time.

The county well being division mentioned in a press release that the white powdery substance that was ejected from the Martinez Refining Firm website contained greater than regular quantities of heavy metals that may trigger respiratory issues over an prolonged time frame. The refinery, as soon as often known as the Shell refinery, is situated on the 3400 block of Pacheco Boulevard and is owned by PBF Vitality.

The leaked materials contained aluminum, barium, chromium, nickel, vanadium and zinc in greater quantities than protected, officers mentioned.

The leak additionally occurred unnoticed. The Contra Costa County neighborhood alert system was not notified by the refinery, authorities mentioned.

“We had been fortunate that this incident occurred late on Thanksgiving and principally occurred throughout the night time hours when most individuals weren’t out and uncovered to it,” Public Well being Director Dr. Ori Zvielli mentioned Wednesday. “Contra Costa Well being doesn’t imagine this might trigger well being issues for the neighborhood.”

The refinery accident on Nov. 21 resulted in a collection of periodic flaring on the refinery within the days main as much as the vacation, officers mentioned. On November 24, after the morning burn, at about 9:30 pm, a “spent catalyst” leaked. The leak was not stopped till “early morning” on November 25, officers mentioned.

In line with Matthew Kaufman, deputy director of public well being providers, well being officers solely discovered of the leak on Saturday morning due to social media.

“We weren’t contacted on Thanksgiving night time,” Kaufman mentioned. “We discovered concerning the incident from social media posts on November twenty sixth. Due to this fact, the neighborhood alert system was not activated. … We contacted the refinery. We anticipate any facility of any kind to inform the county well being division of a launch or suspected launch of hazardous supplies inside quarter-hour of an incident so we will assess the danger to the neighborhood.”

Zvielli mentioned the general impact of the leak is small; he mentioned EMS experiences of respiratory calls had been “decrease than ordinary”.

When requested why the refinery did not notify the well being division, Kaufmann replied, “That is the most effective query for them.”

The corporate didn’t reply to a message despatched on Wednesday afternoon by way of its company web site.

Public well being officers mentioned they might examine, put together a report summarizing attainable violations, and submit it to the Contra Costa County Legal professional’s Workplace. Well being officers retain the appropriate to find out punishment even when prosecutors do not file felony costs, Kaufman mentioned.

“We’ll maintain the corporate liable for the shortage of discover,” he mentioned.

The refinery’s assertion on the Contra Costa Well being Service web site states that the refinery processes crude oil and different feedstocks to be transformed into gasoline. The plant produces sufficient gasoline to fill 252,000 automobiles; sufficient diesel gasoline to fill 13,125 eight-wheeled vans; and sufficient jet gasoline to gasoline 21 Boeing 747s a day, in accordance with the county.

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