MARTINEZ, Calif. (KRON) — Contra Costa Health Services (CCH) is recommending an independent investigation into the Martinez Refining Company incident that “blanketed the surrounding community in metal-laden dust,” according to a statement from CCH.

CCH’s recommendation comes after the Martinez Refining Company faced two incidents within the past month. On Nov. 24, residents of Martinez noticed that a white powder had settled across the area. After testing by CCH, the powder was determined to contain various heavy metals.

Less than two weeks later on Dec. 2, a ‘flaring’ incident at Martinez Refining Company also sent flames and plumes of black smoke into the air. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District reported seeing the flames and the smoke, and received over 20 complaints from residents nearby.

In a letter sent to Martinez Refining Company on Wednesday, CCH noted that the refinery had “violated state law and local policy when it failed to report the airborne release of more than 20 tons of “spent catalyst.”

CCH today notified MRC that, based on its initial investigation, it has determined the Nov. 24-25 incident was a Major Chemical Accident or Release (MCAR), a legal designation that allows CCH to thoroughly investigate the cause of the incident through an independent investigation, perform follow-up work to fill safety gaps, and publicly report its activities through a transparent process.

Contra Costa Health Services

Local leaders called for more accountability for the incidents. “Contra Costa County will not sweep this incident under the rug,” Contra Costa Supervisor Federal Glover said in a press release.

Leaders and members of CCH aren’t the only ones voicing concern over the incidents. A new resident of Martinez tells KRON4 she and her husband recently began searching for a home to buy in the area. The pair was advised by family members — who had lived in Martinez for years — to avoid purchasing a place too close to Martinez Refining Company. “I’m so glad we listened,” she told KRON4.

The couple moved into their new home in mid-November. Since then, there have been two incidents at the plant. They say they are grateful they had access to information about the plant before moving into the area.

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CCH plans to recommend that the County of Contra Costa organize an independent and community-involved investigation into the incident that could run parallel to the investigation that the company is required to conduct. Due to concerns for community health and awareness, CCH will hold a virtual town hall meeting on Dec. 19 at 6 p.m.