Community members lined up to berate and shout at Chevron and government officials at Tuesday's town hall meeting following the refinery fire that sent a mushroom cloud of putrid smoke over the East Bay. While arguing with the speakers, as well as amongst themselves, the biggest concern was that Chevron wasn't doing enough to ensure the safety of neighborhing communities.
"Why should any community have to suffer from any corporation that is destroying the health and the life of the community?" shouted on angry resident, according to Daniel M. Jimenez of Bay Area News Group. "Shut it down."
Also, urban farmers got in on the act, fuming over the loss of produce. One group even "stood in front of the dais, displaying vegetables grown in their garden they said would have to be discarded due to safety concerns."
As far as the air itself? While mired with scary-sounding chemicals and terrifying black hue, toxins in the air were below harmful levels:
Many speakers demanded answers from health officials about what pollutants had been found in early air testing. Jim McKay, of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, said that tests had found 23 compounds in the air. He referred residents to the district's website for specifics -- an answer that drew angry responses more than once, before McKay and Randy Sawyer, the county's chief environmental health officer, talked more specifically about particulate matter, essentially a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets that can result from a fire like Monday's.
Air district testing showed the concentration of toxics in the air -- including ethanol, freon and benzene -- to be below harmful levels, officials said. [...]
As for Chevron, Nigel Hearne, refinery manager for Chevron Richmond, once again personally apologized for the fire. The company said they will also conduct a full investigation as well as compensate residents for medical and property expenses incurred as a result of the fuel-propelled blaze. (Residents wishing to fire a clam can call Chevron at 866-260-7881.)