MARTINEZ, Calif. (KRON) — City of Martinez leaders and the Martinez Refining Company held a town hall to answer community members’ questions about two recent events involving the refinery.
The first was the day after Thanksgiving when spent catalyst waste in the form of dust was released from the facility. The second was a flaring event that happened on Dec. 9.
Many people in Martinez said they are upset with the refinery after these events. Now they are wondering how it may have affected their health and the future.
“This cannot happen again. Trust has been broken; this cannot happen again. This is not how a good neighbor behaves,” said Jonathan T. Wright, Martinez resident.
Dozens of Martinez community members listened in at the town meeting and some voiced their concerns. “If I could stress one thing to the community — not to trust MRC anymore…and they have only themselves to blame,” said Brian Tomain, Martinez resident.
City and county leaders announced that there would be a thorough investigation into the two events. The most recent event that happened on Dec. 9 did not have health impacts based on analysis of the air, according to Contra Costa County Health.
The other event was on Nov. 24 and 25 when a spent catalyst was released into the air. “Contra Costa Health has classified this event as a major chemical accident or release. What this means is we now have regulatory authority to be able to pursue independent investigation of the release as well as holding the refinery to certain standards during the investigation,” said Nicole Heath with the Contra Costa County Health Department.
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The county health department said there will be an oversight committee and the community will have involvement throughout. They want to understand both the health and environmental impacts.
Representatives from the Martinez Refining Company were also in attendance at the meeting. “We sincerely apologize to our community and our neighbors, said Daniel Ingram, Martinez Refinery Company, “Because we were unaware that the spent catalyst had impacted the community. We did not initiate the community notification system or reach out to other agencies.”
It took reports of a white powder substance for the health department to investigate what happened after the fact. It was too late for Martinez residents like Wright who has severe asthma and would not go outside if he knew about hazardous waste in the air.
“If I had known on the day after Thanksgiving that my community had been, I don’t even know how to say this, the refinery had spewed toxic waste in our community I wouldn’t have went outside, but I did and my health has suffered greatly,” said Wright.
The county health department is still investigating, and they warn it is likely to be a slow process. Martinez Refinery Company is working on communicating with the community in more ways, including a website that should roll out in early 2023.