Contra Costa Seeks Volunteers for Oversight of Martinez Refinery Release Investigation
Wednesday, January 18, 2023
Contra Costa County seeks community volunteers for a committee to oversee an independent investigation and risk assessment of the Nov. 24-25 release of heavy metals into the surrounding community by Martinez Refining Company (MRC).
The oversight committee will advise the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors and Contra Costa Health’s (CCH) Hazardous Materials Program on the hiring of contractors to probe the cause of the release, and separately the impact that it had on community health and the environment. The committee will review and direct the work as it proceeds and is ultimately reported to the Board and the public.
The Ad Hoc Committee for the Industrial Safety Ordinance and Community Warning System, a subcommittee of the Board of Supervisors, directed CCH at its Jan. 12 meeting to lead the community-involved investigation and risk assessment, parallel to the investigation MRC is legally required to conduct.
The nine-member oversight committee will be chaired by a Hazardous Materials Program staff member and include representatives from the City of Martinez, MRC, the labor organizations representing MRC workers, and five at-large members from Martinez, Pacheco, or other communities near the refinery.
From about 9:30 p.m. Nov. 24, 2022, to the early hours of Nov. 25, MRC inadvertently showered surrounding neighborhoods with more than 20 tons of spent catalyst, a dust-like substance that CCH later determined to contain elevated levels of aluminum, barium, chromium, nickel, vanadium and zinc.
MRC did not report the release via the county Community Warning System or directly to CCH as required by the county’s notification policy, preventing an immediate regulatory response or prompt safety messaging to affected neighbors. CCH has referred that matter to the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office for consideration of legal action.
To apply for an at-large seat on the committee, fill out the online form at cchealth.org/hazmat or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org including your name, address, and a brief statement about why you wish to participate, or phone 925-655-3200 for assistance.
Community members who are 18 or older and who live near Martinez, Pacheco, and surrounding unincorporated areas will be considered. Committee members will be selected by Supervisor Federal Glover’s office. The deadline to apply is Friday, Jan. 27.
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