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Contra Costa County Investigates Recent Incidents at Martinez Refinery

Contra Costa Health Services has recommended an independent investigation into incidents at the Martinez Refining Co. in late November and early December.

On the night before Thanksgiving, the refinery accidentally released 20 tons of spent catalyst, a powdery dust containing heavy metals that left cars covered in ash. The county says it was a major chemical accident or release, and the refinery violated state law and local policy when it failed to immediately notify them of the incident.

In another incident on Dec. 9, the Martinez Refinery experienced a larger than usual flaring event, which was unsettling to many people who live in the area.

The county is now investigating both incidents.

“We are taking these events very seriously, and we’re investigating the events to the fullest of our ability to completely understand the impacts that have happened to the community and taking all the steps necessary to be able to hold the refinery accountable for any regulatory statutes they’ve violated,” said Nicole Heath of the Contra Costa Hazardous Materials Program.

The Martinez Refinery Co. says an equipment malfunction caused the Dec. 9 flaring, and in a statement wrote: “The flare worked as designed to safely combust excess hydrocarbons efficiently and effectively. We apologize for impacting the community.”

The city of Martinez and Contra Costa County will hold a virtual town hall at 6 p.m. Monday to address people’s concerns about the two recent incidents.

Source: NBC Bay Area

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