MARTINEZ, Calif. (KRON) — In the East Bay, the Martinez Refining Company has notified Contra Costa Health Services of planned maintenance at its facility. It will cause flaring that can be seen from the I-680 and Marina Vista Avenue from Friday through Monday.
This comes as the community is still dealing with the aftermath of another incident from Thanksgiving when the company failed to notify the public of the release of toxic dust. That has resulted in the health department cautioning against eating produce grown in exposed gardens.
Some of the 20 tons of spent catalyst — a dust-like metal material — that was released by Martinez Refining Company on Thanksgiving and the day after blanketed Heidi Taylor’s yard, potentially contaminating her planted produce.
“Just this morning, a friend of mine was asking me about gardening advice, and she wants to plant a garden with her young children. Oh my god, don’t put it in the soil. The first thing I said to her was, you better have a container. This is container gardening time now because of what they did,” said Taylor.
Martinez Refining Company did not notify Contra Costa Health Services about the release, leading the county to consider enforcement action against the company. The public health department’s investigation into the November incident has been turned over to the district attorney’s office for review.
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County Public Health Director Dr. Ori Tzvieli says a toxicologist will be hired to review the data the health department and hazmat team collects through the month.
“We’re looking basically to see if there’s evidence of contamination, where it is, how deep it is and if yes, what needs to be done to remediate the situation. So, until we know, we really recommend not eating food grown in soil that’s been exposed to the spent catalyst,” said Tzvieli.
“Cut out my toilet paper bowls, and I’m gonna fill them with dirt, and then I’m gonna start planting my sunflowers in them,” said Taylor.
Taylor says research suggests planting flowers like dandelions, rosemary and lavender to help pull toxins out of the soil. She is concerned about throwing the dirt away for fear of potentially contaminating a landfill.
So for now, it will stay put.