The agency responsible for monitoring Bay Area air quality reported this afternoon, Tuesday, that the impact on air quality of the large Chevron refinery fire last night in Richmond was minimal.
Kristine Roselius, spokeswoman for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, said the agency had five inspectors on the scene last night and early this morning and also has been gathering continual, real-time data from its 27 permanent monitor stations near the site and around the Bay Area.
"We're seeing surprisingly minimal impacts, but that's likely due to the favorable weather conditions we had yesterday," Roselius said.
She said light winds near the ground allowed the huge plume from the fire to rise high in the air where it was picked up by stronger high-elevation winds that quickly blew it east and dispersed it.
Chevron spokesman Brent Tippen said, "According to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, local air quality monitors show minimal impacts from the fire, with pollution levels well below the federal health standards."
Tests by Contra Costa Health Services for hydrogen sulfate and volatile organic compounds came up negative, according to a department spokeswoman cited by Bay City News Service.
Roselius, speaking shortly before 4 p.m., said the plume remnants are probably somewhere over the Sierra and are so dispersed as to be barely detectable.
The district is continuing to analyze the air samples to determine what they contained, she said.
The fire, whose plume was visible for miles around the Bay Area, sent hundreds of people to local hospitals with respiratory complaints and prompted a shelter-in-place warning from Contra Costa Health Services for Richmond, North Richmond and San Pablo.
Chevron is holding a to address community concerns about the fire and its impacts.
State Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner released a statement this afternoon on the air quality impact:
"Ensuring the health and safety of residents in Richmond and the surrounding West Contra Costa and East Bay communities remains the number one priority. Air quality degradation from incidents like this are especially harmful to children, seniors and other vulnerable populations like those with respiratory conditions. The Chevron facility in Richmond is the largest oil refinery in the Bay Area, so it is understandable that everyone will be asking tough questions. We welcome Chevron’s initiation of tonight’s community meeting and we expect the company to do everything they can to ensure that no danger remains and that any impacts are responded to appropriately. My office will also work with Chevron and state, county and local officials to review existing protocols and to do everything possible to prevent such incidents in the future.”
See more of Patch's Chevron fire coverage: