The Chevron refinery fire two weeks ago was back in the headlines Monday following a release of new photos and a press conference by officials from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, which is investigating the accident.
The chairman of the agency, Rafael Moure-Eraso, called the plume-spewing inferno "a close call," and he also sought to brush aside an earlier dig at the federal agency from a investigator from Cal/OSHA, a state agency also probing the fire.
A Cal/OSHA investigator posted a Facebook message on Aug. 11 accusing the Chemical Safety Board of "grandstanding" and ""scaring the public with half-truths," according to the Contra Costa Times.
Moure-Eraso said his agency had accepted an apology from Cal/OSHA and is eager to put incident behind them so that the investigation can move forward.
"We feel like that was the past, that was a mistake," he said, according to the San Franciso Chronicle.
The federal agency also released a series of photos of the vapor cloud spewed from the refinery's broken pipe. The photos initially show a white clould rising about 1,000 feet into the air and then turning black after it ignited, agency said.
The photos were taken from San Francisco's Pier 39 by a photographer shooting preparations for the America's Cup races, the Chronicle reported.
Chevron also apparently took issue with Chemical Safety Board's update, which indicated that the whitish vapor cloud ignited. In describing the photos, the agency said, "In the first five photos the vapor cloud is whitish in color but after the cloud is ignited dark black smoke is visible."
Chevron released a statement saying, "It is premature to comment on the composition of the white cloud. Rather than speculate, we intend to rely upon carefully considered expert analysis. Our experts are currently working on computational fluid dynamics modeling and we will have more information in the coming weeks. We do know that a significant amount of water was being applied on scene and that considerable steam was created. The black smoke that you see was a result of hydrocarbons that ignited. Because the white cloud did not ignite we have questions about its composition."
The fire prompted shelter-in-place warnings from Contra Costa County health officials for Richmond, North Richmond and San Pablo and saw an estimated 11,000 seek treatment at local hospitals over the next several days with respiratory and other medical complaints related to the fire.
Investigators still haven't determined the exact cause of the accident.
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