Richmond Mayor Seeks Full Transparency in Determining Cause of Refinery Fire

Aug. 9, 2012 / By

From the Richmond Pulse

News from City Hall

Residents in Richmond and the surrounding area were reminded last night of the ongoing risk of living in close proximity to a major oil refinery. Tens of thousands of people were advised to “shelter-in-place” as a level 3 health warning due to fire and explosions in the crude unit at Chevron’s Richmond refinery. Huge billows of black smoke were spewed for miles into Bay Area air, impacting residents in Richmond, North Richmond, San Pablo, and El Cerrito. As far away as the Oakland hills, people were advised to stay indoors. The shelter-in-place lasted throughout the night while firefighters worked to contain the fire.

This morning the shelter-in-place has been lifted, although a health advisory remains in place. Chevron has announced that the fire is contained and the situation is under control. However, controlled burning continues, which remains a big concern to local residents, especially the most vulnerable with respiratory conditions such as asthma and other breathing difficulties.

Thankfully, Chevron employees experienced only a few minor burns, but hundreds of Richmond residents were seen at local hospital emergency rooms for respiratory problems and difficulty breathing. According to a filing with the California Emergency Management Agency, the fire released sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, hydrogen oxide, sulfuric acid and nitrogen dioxide into the air. A Chevron representative has stated that “diesel grade materials” from the crude unit was the source of the combustion.

Three local BART stations (Richmond, El Cerrito, and Del Norte) were closed for hours, but all are currently operating.

Concerns remain about inadequacies and delays in the communication system which reportedly notified only some residents about the shelter-in-place, and not in a timely manner.

While the situation seems to be under control, the investigation is just beginning.
Chevron will be holding a Town Hall meeting tonight at the Richmond Auditorium, 403 Civic Center Plaza, at 6 pm. All are invited to share concerns and ask questions.

“We live with this risk day in and day out. I will be seeking a full investigation and analysis from both Chevron and independent sources. I am calling on Chevron for full and complete transparency and accountability in determining what caused the health and safety of our residents to be jeopardized,” said Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, who will attend the Town Hall meeting tonight. “Our community is rightfully concerned and we shall continue to seek full cooperation from Chevron regarding all aspects of their day-to-day operations of this inherently dangerous and complex process of oil refining.”

Read more about the Chevron Fire and its impact on the surrounding communities at http://richmondpulse.org

RICHMOND PULSE is a community news and media outlet, committed to amplifying the voices of the city’s under-served residents. Our reporting is led by young people, with the intent of serving the entire community. Through our work, we seek to create dialogue, and find solutions to, the health issues that plague the Richmond, California community.

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What makes the RICHMOND PULSE different from other news organizations is that it is community based, youth-led, and with a focus on any issue that affects the health of the overall community. Young people will be trained in the craft of multimedia reporting, effectively becoming the eyes and ears of their community and bringing their stories to a wider audience through the web as well as a local newspaper that will be distributed widely throughout the city of Richmond, and beyond.