Editor's note: The Bay City News Service story below offers precautionary advice from Contra Costa County health officials about washing outdoor items that may have been exposed to residue from the Chrevron refinery fire Monday.
Also, attached to this article is also an incident report filed by Chevron with county. "To date, local air quality monitors show levels of potentially toxic pollutants to be well under their reference exposure levels, and not a significant health concern," according to a Chevron summary of the report, which was released Thursday.
The report also says five workers suffered minor injuries in the incident response. At first Chevron reported one worker with minor injuries, and later three.
Separately Chevron announced that it will open an office today, Friday, for residents to file claims for medical or other expenses caused by the fire. The office at the Nevin Community Center, 598 Nevin Ave., in Richmond, will be open Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sat. 8 a.m. to noon. Residents can also file by phone 24 hours day by calling 866-260-7881.
By Bay City News Service
Richmond and neighboring residents concerned about the impact of Monday's Chevron refinery fire at homes, gardens, playgrounds and other outdoor areas are advised to clean anything that may have been exposed to the smoke that made its way through the region, county health officials said.
Residents in Richmond, El Sobrante, San Pablo, Martinez and further east into the Oakland Hills who were affected by the billowing smoke from the fire at the Chevron plant have been advised to wash outdoor furniture, barbecues, play structures, plants, and fruits and vegetables with a mild detergent and water mixture, Chief Environmental and Hazardous Materials Officer Randy Sawyer said.
The county has not organized a collective cleanup effort throughout the region, but recommends wiping down anything that was exposed, Sawyer said.
There have been reports of oily residue on outdoor objects, which can effectively be cleaned with soap and water, he said.
The smoke from the "Level 3" fire in the No. 4 crude unit released a variety of chemicals into the air, however the Bay Area Air Quality Management District has deemed levels safe and nontoxic.
Contra Costa County Public Works has been consulting with the county public health department and based on their advice has been inspecting parks in North Richmond and San Pablo, department Director Julie Bueren said.
The precautionary measure aims to put communities at ease, she said.
"If an inspection shows any dirt or residue, we will wash with soap and water," she said.
The director reiterated the health department's cautions to be careful and wash hands frequently despite the preliminary information that residents were not exposed to toxins.
However, smoke particulates have caused eye, nose and throat irritation, making breathing difficult and sending more than 1,700 to area hospitals, according to health officials.
The city of Richmond announced plans this week to systematically go through city parks and playgrounds and clean them.
A Richmond Recreation Department staff member said this morning crews were already at parks doing cleanups.
San Pablo residents have not reported issues connected to the refinery fire, San Pablo Assistant City Manager Kelsey Worthy said.
"There have been no residents calling about any residue or debris," he said.
County officials have assured Richmond residents that drinking water is safe, and the East Bay Municipal Utility District has also stated waterways were not affected by the noxious smoke.
EBMUD spokeswoman Abby Figueroa said there was no exposure to potable water, which is kept in enclosed reservoirs. Open waterways such as San Pablo and Briones reservoirs hold raw water that is treated, filtered and tested regardless.
Figueroa said the utility's call center has not been slammed with phone calls from concerned customers following the fire.
She said customers made more calls worried about water safety in March 2011 after the nuclear power plant meltdown in Japan.
Nonprofit group Communities for a Better Environment is working to educate the Richmond community about environmental justice and issues surrounding the Chevron refinery, the group's Richmond community organizer Andres Soto said.
"We have been working to create a consensus around what are some of the actions and demands we would like to see in the aftermath of this incident," Soto said.
He said at a community meeting held by Chevron on Tuesday night the advice from public health officials to clean exposed play structures, outdoor equipment and fruits and vegetables did not seem credible.
The community organizer said the company, county and health officials should have immediately decided to conduct a survey of "who, where and what was contaminated."
Contra Costa Health Services has posted a page with more advice at: http://cchealth.org/special/pdf/FAQ-Chevron-Fire.pdf.
See more of Patch's Chevron fire coverage: