Refinery flaring report under investigation

MARTINEZ — Hazardous-materials team members with Contra Costa’s health department were investigating reports of flaring at a refinery Thursday night.

According to a social-media post at 9:30 p.m., an account associated with Contra Costa Health Services said the team was responding to the refinery, 3485 Pacheco Blvd., for those reports and would provide updates as they learned more. A follow-up post about a half-hour later said the flaring had stopped, and that air-district monitoring data showed no signs of immediate community health risk.

In an e-mailed statement Thursday night, a Martinez Refining Company representative said “a power dip this evening” caused “a brief flaring event at the refinery,” adding that operations were otherwise stable and that the cause of the electrical disruption was under investigation.

“We apologize for impacting some of our neighbors and thank our employees who safely responded,” the refinery statement read in part.

“Flares are an essential part of a refinery’s integrated, engineered safety systems. Flares are designed to safely manage excess combustible gases, by burning them off efficiently and effectively.”

The county’s community warning system, available at cwsalerts.com, was not activated Thursday night to alert residents of any immediately dangerous conditions. The system was activated Dec. 9 after a previous flaring episode caused by a compressor failure drew first responders to the refinery site. Health department air-monitoring tests later found there was no need for residents to shelter in place in response to that episode.

The refinery has drawn increased scrutiny from county officials and department staff members for several recent flaring episodes, as well as the airborne release of more than 20 tons of hazardous metal-laden dust over a six-hour period that began around 9:30 p.m. Thanksgiving night.

These incidents led city officials to join county staff members in a community town hall Monday. On Tuesday and Wednesday, health department-compiled inspection reports and sampling data reports were posted to the department’s hazardous-materials page at cchealth.org/hazmat.

The refinery pointed residents to its community inquiry line at (925) 313-3777, or (925) 313-3601 during off hours.

Contact George Kelly at 408-859-5180.




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