Friday, July 14, 2023
Laboratory analysis shows that samples of coke dust collected by Contra Costa Health (CCH) following Tuesday's hazardous materials release at Martinez Refining Company (MRC) did not contain high levels of toxic metals, indicating the dust does not pose an increased, long-term risk to public health.
CCH's Hazardous Materials Program sent samples of the sooty substance for laboratory analysis after it collected on cars, garbage cans and other surfaces in neighborhoods around the refinery soon after notification of the release on July 11. The laboratory report is available here.
MRC reported the release at about 10:20 a.m. on Tuesday by activating the county's Community Warning System at Level 1, the lowest-level alert, used for hazardous materials releases when there are no expected off-site health consequences.
MRC reported the material was coke dust, a black, sooty or powdery residue created during petroleum refining that primarily contains carbon and is chemically similar to charcoal. The material was released about 8:30 a.m. for approximately one minute, according to MRC.
CCH and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District are investigating the incident to determine whether the release violated regulatory law.
CCH is also investigating whether MRC properly followed the county's emergency notification policy and properly used the Community Warning System, as required by law.
Coke dust can be safely washed off surfaces with soap and water. The primary health concern regarding the release of coke dust is irritation of throat, lungs and the respiratory system while the release was occurring and the material was in the air, particularly for people with respiratory conditions such as asthma.
Anyone who believes they have symptoms or health concerns due to breathing material released during the July 11 incident should contact their healthcare provider.
CCH expects to learn more about the contributing causes of the incident, actions immediately taken, and proposed actions to prevent a similar incident from occurring. The first incident report from MRC to CCH, required by the county's notification policy, will be available at cchealth.org on Monday.
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