Investigation promised: Officials criticize Chevron response to oil spill

Bay Area

RICHMOND (BCN) – A petroleum product leak that spilled an estimated five gallons a minute Tuesday afternoon at the Chevron refinery long wharf in Richmond is drawing criticism from some elected officials and an environmental group. 

 Some 600 gallons went into the Bay between 2:40 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., when the leak was stopped, according to Contra Costa Supervisor John Gioia, who said “This is unacceptable!” in a post on social media.

The Chevron refinery said in a statement that refinery workers noticed a sheen on the water about 3 p.m., and that “Chevron immediately initiated its response protocol, began working to isolate and contain the release, and notified all applicable agencies.”  

The incident was classified as Level 2 (Level 1 is the lowest) and Contra Costa Health Services issued an advisory shortly before 4 p.m. for Richmond, San Pablo and unincorporated North Richmond, warning those with sensitive respiratory conditions to stay indoors to avoid irritation of nose, throat and eyes. 

Video courtesy of Baykeeper

Booms were placed to control the spread of the spill, but the East Bay Regional Park District had to close beaches as a safety measure and “petroleum washed ashore along South Richmond shoreline which will harm wildlife and marine life,” Gioia said.

The refinery said it is “fully cooperating with authorities,” including the U.S. Coast Guard and the 

Office of Spill Prevention and Response of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Chevron’s initial response was “inadequate” and “oil quickly breached Chevron’s containment boom,” Oakland-based environmental watchdog group San Francisco Baykeeper said in a statement, releasing photos to back its contentions. 

“Chevron’s oil pipeline leak today is bad news for the Bay — we’re unfortunately still learning how big the oil spill was and what the impacts are. The Bay Area’s five refineries have a long history of environmental violations, so they should be prepared for a situation like this,” Baykeeper executive director Sejal Choksi-Chugh said, calling the initial containment response “pathetic.” 

“Baykeeper’s field investigator was one of the first to arrive on the scene, and he saw one small yellow boom deployed near the wharf, with lots of oil already spread beyond the boom into the Bay and onto nearby shorelines and beaches,” Choksi-Chugh said. 

Gioia promised a full investigation would be conducted and said that Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks told him she “plans to introduce a bill to increase fines and penalties in order to provide more effective deterrence.”

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