Folks in parts of Contra Costa County are being advised not to eat produce grown in soil near the Martinez Refining Company, after its November hazardous chemical release left white ash strewn about their neighborhoods.

The Martinez Refining Company has notified the Contra Costa Health Services that their often-flaring refinery will be flaring again this coming weekend. As KRON4 explains, planned maintenance “will cause flaring that can be seen from the I-680 and Marina Vista Avenue from Friday through Monday.” And while it’s great that the refinery is providing advance notice of this, there’s still some very troubling fallout from a previous hazardous chemical release at the refinery some three months ago. Because as detailed in that KRON4 report, that November hazardous chemical release has now led to a warning that residents should not eat produce grown in their own gardens.

“Just this morning, a friend of mine was asking me about gardening advice, and she wants to plant a garden with her young children,” nearby resident Heidi Taylor tells KRON4. “Oh my god, don’t put it in the soil. The first thing I said to her was, you better have a container. This is container gardening time now because of what they did.”

As KPIX reminds us, that November incident “released more than 20 tons of metal-laden dust into the community,” as a mysterious white ash from the refinery covered cars, trees, and streets around Martinez and Pacheco. And KPIX adds that “Testing following the release showed elevated levels of aluminum, barium, chromium, nickel, vanadium and zinc,” in that white ash and discharge.

"We are making this recommendation out of an abundance of caution," county health officer Dr. Ori Tzvieli said in a statement to NBC Bay Area. "There is no immediate health threat to the community. That said, it’s also always better to be safe than sorry."

The recommendation echoes recent tense weeks around East Palestine, Ohio, where a prescribed burn of toxic chemicals from a train derailment has led many to worry about the lingering health and environmental effects.

Contra Costa Health Services says residents in Martinez and Pacheco can still plant new seeds in their gardens, but should not eat anything that was grown there since late November. And apparently it’s okay to eat produce grown in soil they bought themselves; or anything grown in what KPIX describes as "pots, planters or raised garden beds with fresh soil.” But otherwise, Martinez and Pacheco residents are advised to not eat any produce grown in backyard gardens until environmental tests have been finalized late this spring or early this summer.  

Related: Health Officials Urge Contra Costa DA To Investigate Martinez Refinery’s Unreported Hazardous Chemical Release [SFist]

Image: @ContraCostaFire via Twitter