The Chevron refinery in Richmond had some sort of rupture or accident on Tuesday afternoon at a wharf where fuel tankers dock that leaked around 600 gallons of "a petroleum-water mixture" into San Francisco Bay.
As we learned late Tuesday afternoon, the leak was unleashing about five gallons of fuel into the Bay per minute, and it was reportedly stopped around 4:40 p.m. A statement from Chevron refers neither to a leak nor to what the substance was, simply calling it "hydrocarbon," and says that the "sheen" was observed on the water at "approximately 3 p.m."
Statement from Chevron Richmond: pic.twitter.com/jUTqMdIXE1— Chevron Richmond (@ChevronRichmond) February 10, 2021
County Supervisor John Gioia was one of the first to tweet about the spill on Tuesday, warning nearby residents to stay indoors — neighbors reported a strong smell of gasoline. The health advisory was lifted at 9 p.m. Tuesday.
As Gioia explained, regarding the possible cause of the leak, "That long wharf is where petroleum products are transferred from a line or a pipeline from the refinery out into the Bay. It could have occurred in the line anywhere or with the transfer with the ship."
3) sensitive respiratory conditions to stay indoors to avoid irritation.— John Gioia (@supejohngioia) February 10, 2021
Full investigation will occur. I spoke to @BuffyWicks tonight and she plans to introduce a bill to increase fines and penalties in order to provide more effective deterrence.
This is unacceptable! pic.twitter.com/gA6WGvNtEx
Booms were placed in the water to contain the spill Tuesday afternoon, and cleanup in the water and on the shoreline continues Wednesday morning, as KTVU reports.
East Bay Regional Parks has closed the parks along the Richmond shoreline.
"We have seen sheen in San Pablo Bay, there have been unconfirmed reports of sheen on shoreline, we’re still conducting an investigation and should know more in the morning,” said Eric Laughlin of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, speaking to NBC Bay Area.
"There haven't been any oiled animals reported at this time, but we do have the oil wildlife care network on standby," Laughlin said to ABC 7.
Impacts on wildlife are still being assessed.
"The particular spot near the Chevron long wharf is a major haul out for harbor seals and right now in the winter there are many migratory birds in the Bay," says David Lewis of Save the Bay, speaking to NBC Bay Area.
Richmond residents say that no text alerts went out about the spill, which the County had called a "Level 2" environmental incident.
"It smelled like somebody spilled gasoline in front of my house it smelled very very badly for whole day," said Margaret Berczynski, speaking to ABC 7. "I'm really devastated, I'm really devastated. I cannot take my kids to the water, I cannot walk [to the] water, I cannot enjoy it. I'm really scared."
Bay Area residents may recalled the disastrous Cosco Busan oil spill back in November 2007, in which the captain of a cargo ship, John Cota, ultimately pleaded guilty after poorly steering the ship into the Bay and colliding with the Delta Tower of the Bay Bridge amid thick fog. Cota was found to have been impaired by prescription drugs at the time, and the spill dumped over 53,500 gallons of heavy fuel oil into the Bay, deeply impacting birds and wildlife.
Chevron's Richmond Refinery has been implicated in several disasters and environmental impacts in the last decade, including a fire in 2012 that unleashed an enormous plume of toxic smoke over the East Bay.
In 2015, Chevron was fined for some flaring that occurred in December 2014 that sent massive flames into the sky, which it claimed it had to do in order to avoid a much larger and more severe environmental disaster.
Photo: Peter Olexa