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"Minimal" Air Quality Impact from Chevron Fire, Officials Report

A spokeswoman for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District this afternoon said air samples during and after the Chevron refinery fire showed "surprisingly minimal impacts" because of favorable weather conditions.

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.”

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See more of Patch's Chevron fire coverage:

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Futbolfem August 08, 2012 at 12:40 AM
In Pinole Valley there was a stench early in the morning 7:30am and now at 5:30pm the sky still is hazy and gray. Has the air quality been tested at Pinole? Pinole Valley specifically?
Redrock August 08, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Redrock 6:00 pm on Tuesday, August 7, 2012 This was a left wing media inflicted case of mass hysteria. Nobody has a justifiable medical claim, because there are no damages! The people hovering around the hospitals are just ambulance and fast buck chasers looking for a quick pay day to manipulate the insurance companies. This is why we have such high premiums Can’t wait for Obama care to kick in! ! Anyone ever have the unfortunate experience of “rear ending” anyone in Richmond or Oakland while traveling less than 0 MPH… you know the outcome. Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie something! It aint no run for the border… it’s a run on the local “hood” ambulance chaser attorney.. a'la Johnny Cochran.
julie August 08, 2012 at 10:36 AM
All this time I thought someone was wearing a White Hood, who knew he ALSO had a White Doctors coat.
Betty Buginas August 08, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Shelter in place issued 7:15 am Aug. 8 for Martinez:"There is an emergency at Shell Refinery." http://www.cococws.us/map.html
Don Guerrero August 08, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Heard it was only a test...
Betty Buginas August 08, 2012 at 02:37 PM
Don, Hope so. if so, seems pretty irresponsible not to be clear about that. Here is the beginning of what's on the county website: FROM: Contra Costa Health Services FOR: Facility Location:1800 Marina Vista, Martinez. DESCRIPTION: This is a message from Contra Costa health services. There is an emergency at Shell Refinery. INSTRUCTION: Residents in Martinez, are advised to shelter in place, go inside, close all windows and doors, turn off all heaters, air conditioners and fans. If not
Betty Buginas August 08, 2012 at 02:38 PM
FROM: Contra Costa Health Services FOR: Facility Location:1800 Marina Vista, Martinez. DESCRIPTION: This is a message from Contra Costa health services. There is an emergency at Shell Refinery. INSTRUCTION: Residents in Martinez, are advised to shelter in place, go inside, close all windows and doors, turn off all heaters, air conditioners and fans. If not using the fireplace, close fireplace dampers and vents, and cover cracks around doors and windows with tape or damped towels. Media News networks will continue to carry updated emergency information. Stay off the telephone unless you have a life threatening emergency.
Betty Buginas August 08, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Just said accidental alert!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
David Johnston August 08, 2012 at 03:19 PM
We heard the sirens here in Benicia, but could not find any information. Channel 2 reported it was an accidental alert. JB - maybe something to look into - when the CAN system in CoCo County is activated, at what point would we in Solano County get any information? and vise verse. If Valero were to have an issue that activated the CAN system here, is there a way for those across the bay to get info?
Betty Buginas August 08, 2012 at 03:35 PM
At a follow up meeting on Monday's Chevron fire, http://elcerrito.patch.com/articles/rowdy-crowd-voices-outrage-at-chevron-county , someone from the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department mentioned the importance of residents signing themselves up for alerts.
Betty Buginas August 08, 2012 at 03:42 PM
David, the counties should of course be working together but I'm sure you can sign up for Contra Costa County alerts even if you don't live here by going to the CoCo website: http://www.cococws.us/register.html
David Johnston August 08, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Thanks Betty - I was unaware of the registery - and I work at a refinery! Friends often call me when this are amiss.
Jon Quinn August 10, 2012 at 05:44 PM
To say that no one had a legit medical claim is just rediculous. Who are you a chevron share holder? The thick plume of smoke could be seen and smelled from one side of the bay to the other. Just because there werent any highly toxic chemicals found doesnt mean it didnt affect people. It doesnt take much to flare up someones existing asthma or emphasima. Thousands of people are killed or hospitalized from smoke inhalation every year. Most of the time from house fires. Add toxic chemicals and unknowns into the mix and their is serious cause for concern. Many people had legitamite reasons to go to the ER. Even if if you had only minor symstoms, it is best to be checked and get a second opinion from a doctor.
Jon Quinn August 10, 2012 at 05:50 PM
even if only 10 out of 10,000 are legit. Chevron still released mass amounts of smoke into our atmosphere. I personally have nothing against the one that are not legit either. the residents of Richmond have been living next to chevron for ever breathing in toxins from the refinery on a daily basis. Who knows how this could affect everyone long term. Point is, Chevron is a bomb waiting to go off righ in the heart of the East Bay. Chevron needs to go
Mike August 11, 2012 at 06:08 AM
BAAQMD just retracted the "no hazard" claim. It detected levels of the toxic compound acrolein above the federal standard. http://www2.wjbf.com/business/2012/aug/09/regulators-detect-pollution-from-ca-refinery-fire-ar-4312579/ I'm half surprised by this. The air district usually claims that it doesn't have a reliable way to measure acrolein (eye irritant, carcinogen) and that the safety levels are "under revision", so they don't count it when they do hazard analysis for emission permits, even when the planned emission level is many multiples of the safe limit. In my experience, the BAAQMD does NOT like to talk about the acrolein issue, so I'm not surprised that they omitted this substance when they declared that there were no unsafe levels. I can't imagine what might have prompted them to come forward with this now, and what kind of internal pressure it took to break through the taboo. Will the BAAQMD now include acrolein in the hazard analysis for emitters? What about all the existing permits? Just how bad were the acrolein levels? Were they at 102% of safe levels, or 10,000%? Will we ever get answers to these questions?
CHACHA August 24, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Chevron probably "paid-off" AIR QUALITY CONTROL along w/several other major govt officials/depts etc w/ all their lobbiest n big-oil money/profits & campaign donations, etc,This arrogant "BIG FAT $28 bILL PROFIT/YR CORP" SHOULD PAY FOR THESE FIRES, POLLUTANTS ACCIDENTS OR NOT" and not continually "escape w/a slap-on-the- wrist warnings n/or miniscule fines" as well as take a bigger stand w/it's "Social Responsibilty" to "all the surrounding areas, towns/cities, people it affects" (not just the mini Richmond/San Pablo corridor). ie When Chevron n Richmond Fire Depts. called for "other cities "back-up assistance" to help w/fire, many like towns/cities fire/emergency resouces were stripped (stolen) to the bone,(as many towns r understaffed w/only 1 fire station) leaving their people/towns w/out any Fire Trucks/staff coverage @ OUR LOCAL TAXPAPERS EXPENSE, CHEVRON (n other BIG OIL/FIRES Cos ie Shell, Union, etc) SHOULD PAY FOR THESE "BACKUP/ASSISST SERVICES TOO! SO, MAYOR, CITY COUNCIL, WHAT R U GOING TO ABOUT IT, NOW???

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