RICHMOND (CBS SF) -- Officials issued an 'all clear' Tuesday night, after hundreds of gallons of petroleum oil spilled into the San Francisco bay at the Chevron Refinery in Point Richmond, prompting a health alert for the surrounding area.
The spill was reported just at around 3 p.m. and was located at the refinery's long wharf near the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Response boats were dispatched to assess the situation, the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office said via the Community Warning System.
The CWS gave the 'all clear' around 8:40 p.m. along with a message, saying, "The emergency situation has ended. Please feel free to resume normal activities. Please open doors and windows to air out buildings and homes."
The Level 2 advisory was issued for portions of Richmond, North Richmond and San Pablo, saying the incident could affect individuals with respiratory sensitivities.
The leak was spilling five gallons of petroleum product per minute into the bay, county Supervisor John Gioia said. Just after 5 p.m., Richmond Fire said the spill had been stopped. An estimated 600 gallons of petroleum spilled into the bay, according to officials.
The Richmond Fire Department said booms were being deployed to contain the leak. Responding agencies included the U.S. Coast Guard and the state Department of Fish and Game. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National Response Center and EPA Region 9 were also notified.
Eye, skin, nose or throat irritation may be possible for some people in the affected area, but most people would not be affected the alert said.
People who experience any irritation were advised to to go inside and rinse any irritated area of their body with water.
Just after 5 p.m., Chevron Richmond issued the following statement:
At approximately 3 p.m. today, the Richmond Refinery observed a sheen on the water near the Richmond Refinery wharf. Chevron immediately initiated its response protocol, began working to isolate and contain the release, and notified all applicable agencies. The hydrocarbon release has been stopped at this time and clean-up is ongoing. Chevron was fully cooperating with authorities, including the U.S. Coast Guard and OSPR. We have issued a community notice and ask the public to remain clear of the area so crews can quickly contain and clean up the released volumes.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District tweeted out at around 7:15 p.m. that approximately 600 gallons total of the petroleum and water mixture had leaked into the Bay.
Environmental organizations quickly responded to the incident, citing its impact on wildlife in the area.
"Right next to the Chevron long wharf is one of the major haul out areas for harbor seals. This time of year — there's also migratory birds that are on the surface - of course all year round there are fish and sharks and wildlife in the water that could be poisoned by this oil," said David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay.
Audubon California Director of Bird Conservation Andrea Jones also issued a statement regarding the spill, saying that the organization would be monitoring the impacts "with concern."
"While early reports suggest that the spill measures in hundreds -- rather than thousands -- of gallons of petroleum, that's more than enough to threaten the health of thousands of residents in the nearby area, as well as sensitive habitat for waterbirds that come to San Francisco Bay during the winter months," the statement said.
Among the water fowl that could be affected were Western Grebes, Brown Pelicans, Double-Crested Cormorants, Ospreys, American Avocets, Willets and a number of other species of shore and seabirds. The statement also pointed out that the spill happened near a vital spawning ground for the Pacific Herring and the eelgrass beds off Ferry Point that both serve as keystones for the region's ecosystem.
Neighbors in 'The Point' expressed shock and sadness.
"I've never seen that before. I've never seen before. I've been here 30 years in that house right there and no, I've never seen a spill like that before," said Point Richmond resident Richard Katz.
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