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Is anyone paying attention here?!

Chevron’s Richmond, CA refinery has had two major accidents, sending thousands to local hospitals, in the past five years!

Currently, they are pushing plans through the City of Richmond’s permitting process to repair the crude unit that caused the fire on August 6, 2012, but it doesn’t seem that Chevron has any intention of following a City Council Resolution to use the highest standards and best technology in the repair.

And they’re planning to reopen this unit early next year?!

Turns out, Chevron claims that they are not ‘planning’ to increase production, therefore can forgo requirements to install the newest clean air technologies.  But- this poses a serious question.  Why wouldn’t a company want to install the best clean air technology?  Do they really not care about the health and safety of Richmond residents?

The Mayor of Richmond, Gayle McLaughlin, shares similar concerns over not ‘seeing the best available technology’.  She’s continuing to hold Chevron accountable by bringing about a resolution to City Council ensuring transparency from Chevron.

Yet, Chevron continues to spin the story, blaming the community residents for the delay in repairs at the Richmond Refinery.  Something many community residents have seen many times before.

Chevron has been polluting the City of Richmond, and surrounding areas, for decades.  They’ve shown time and time again that they do not properly maintain their facility and they consistently lie to the residents, City Council and the BAAQMD.  For Chevron to defy the Richmond City Council is just Chevron doing business as usual.

So what happens when the nearby refinery has an accident?

The GCM team springs into action!

On August 6, 2012 an explosion happened at the Chevron Refinery in Richmond, CA that led to a fire at the facility.  This industrial accident sent a huge plume of smoke into the sky and left heavy soot fallout on residents’ homes, yards and gardens.  Neither Chevron nor the Bay Area Air District had any monitoring data on what neighbors could have been exposed to, the GCM team connected with families that had noticed heavy soot on their property just after the fire.

We collected 10 wipe samples and analysed them for Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH’s) and found some alarming results.

But here’s a little insight into first-hand experiences of collecting air samples with community members.

First, we reached out to local residents through online sources, media outlets and email list serves.  In response, we were contacted by a slew of folks expressing their concerns.  Then Senior Program Manager Jessica Hendricks prioritized locations for sampling and hit the pavement.  Here’s her story:

After meandering through busy work schedules and the windy roads of the Richmond Hills, I knock on the door of the first house.  A woman answers, carrying a baby and kicking children’s toys out of the front hallway.  She’s extremely concerned for her young children’s health and worried about how to clean up the oily soot fallout.

We discussed ways to limit exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.  But, the truth is, we don’t have the answers and that’s part of the problem.  No air monitoring had been done at the time of the accident, so we just don’t know.  After connecting with some more families, I found that many folks in the greater Richmond area shared her same concerns.  “What is it? Is it harmful to my family’s health?”  The reality is that these questions need very real answers, from the agencies responsible for protecting our health and the companies responsible for maintaining the safety of their refineries.  Neighbors have the right to know, and deserve comprehensive air monitoring data.

She gestures to the back deck, where she’s noticed the most of the sooty fallout, which is also where she keeps bees for honey.  So I step outside, try to ignore the swarm of honey bees and pull out the sampling kit.  As the bees start landing on me, she yells from behind the patio door- “You’re not allergic to bees, are you?”  Luckily I’m not, and I quickly wiped up the oily soot and placed it back in the tube to be sent to the lab.

Off to the next house, which I need to drive to Hayward for…

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