Watch CBS News

Volunteers sought for committee overseeing Martinez refinery release investigation

PIX Now 09:21

MARTINEZ – Contra Costa County officials are seeking volunteers to serve on a committee to oversee an independent investigation and risk assessment following a release of heavy metals from a Martinez refinery over the Thanksgiving holiday.

The committee was formed in response to an incident that took place at the Martinez Refining Company (MRC) on the night of November 25 and early in the morning of November 26. According to health officials, more than 20 tons of metal-laden dust known as "spent catalyst" was released into surrounding neighborhoods.

Testing by health officials showed the dust contained elevated levels of aluminum, barium, chromium, nickel, vanadium and zinc.

Officials said the refinery did not immediately notify the county in a timely manner and that they only learned about the release through media accounts.

"MRC's failure to follow notification procedure cost us critical time we could have used to warn the public and reduce health risks in the community. It's unacceptable," Deputy Health Director Matt Kaufmann said in a statement following the incident.

Contra Costa Health recently referred the matter to the Contra Costa District Attorney's Office for consideration of legal action.

Officials said Wednesday that volunteers would advise the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors and Contra Costa Health's Hazardous Materials Program on the hiring of contractors to probe the cause of the release.

The nine-member oversight committee would be chaired by a Hazardous Materials Program staff member and would include representatives from the City of Martinez, MRC, labor organizations representing MRC workers and five at-large members from the community.

Officials said community members 18 and older who live near Martinez, Pacheco and surrounding unincorporated areas would be considered. County Supervisor Federal Glover's office would select the members.

To apply for a seat on the committee, visit to fill out an online form. Applications can also be emailed to and must include name, address and a brief statement about why you would wish to participate.

People interested in volunteering can also call 925-655-3200 for assistance.

The application deadline is January 27.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.