Yet another flare-up at the oil refinery in Martinez has homes reportedly shaking, and as of Friday afternoon, the refinery is still spewing sulfur dioxide into the air of Martinez and Pacheco.
Today was already a Spare the Air day, but the air is a whole lot worse in the East Bay towns of Martinez and Pacheco. That’s thanks to yet another flaring incident at the Martinez Refining Company, as the Chronicle reports, which apparently started just before 10 a.m. Friday morning. As of press time for this post, it's still emitting sulfur dioxide into surrounding areas, that state officials say is “venting into the atmosphere which may be exceeding the reportable quantity.”
The Martinez Refining Company acknowledged this in a 10 a.m. Friday morning Facebook post. “Flaring is occurring at the Martinez Refinery that may be visible and audible offsite due to an operational incident,” the company admitted. “Additionally, increased steam from the refinery may be visible, and we are aware of odor complaints and are conducting community monitoring to investigate the source.”
To which one Facebook commenter responded “My whole house has been shaking since 930 it's now 1 o'clock.” And another replied, “Ours also.”
Just after 11 a.m., Contra Costa County issued a health advisory relating to the flare-up, according to NBC Bay Area. The Contra Costa County Health Department (CCH) said that it had issued the advisory "due to a strong chemical odor in Martinez, possibly associated with flaring at Martinez Refining Company. CCH has upgraded the incident to a Level 2 alert on the Community Warning System.”
That alert troublingly added that “The cause of the odor has not been determined.” They also said that the “incident at the Martinez Refining Company could affect individuals with respiratory sensitivities,” and that “Eye, skin, nose, or throat irritation may be possible for some people in the affected area. If people experience any irritation, advise them to go inside and rinse any irritated area of their body with water.”
The Chronicle then had a Friday afternoon update, after state authorities issued a statement. The Governor's Office of Emergency Services said that a “steam generator failed causing a system upset which caused the release” of sulfur dioxide into the air of Martinez and Richmond.
The Martinez Refining Company has had a few of these incidents in the last year or so, with a Thanksgiving Day 2022 flare-up that covered surrounding communities with white ash, then another flaring incident two weeks later, and spewing potentially toxic white dust on neighboring communities in July. They’re also facing a lawsuit from Martinez residents over the 2022 Thanksgiving incident.
Image: Martinez Refining Company LLC via LinkedIn