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Martinez residents voice concerns about refinery at Contra Costa Health Department meeting

Health officials release toxicology report on hazardous materials released by Martinez Refinery
Health officials release toxicology report on hazardous materials released by Martinez Refinery 02:25

MARTINEZ — On Monday night, residents who live near the Martinez refinery had the chance to voice their concerns to the Contra Costa County Health Department over the refinery's spent catalyst release in November of 2022

The health department held a meeting to discuss the findings of an assessment done by the contractor TRC. It determined that the release of spent catalyst didn't increase public health risks from exposure of hazardous materials in nearby soil.

The health department said the primary health risk occurred during the initial hours and days after when people may have breathed in dust particles.

"Our concern is why weren't we notified," one resident said during the meeting Monday night, adding that they would have had time to bring their animals in had they known the release would be happening.

The health department made it clear they didn't know the refinery would be releasing spent catalyst. They found out about it a couple of days later.

"I'm concerned this report minimizes the effects of heavy metals," another resident listening to the meeting via Zoom said.

Heidi Taylor was another one of the residents listening in virtually. She lives near the Martinez Refining Company and wants answers.

"I hope there aren't any long-term consequences of that. We just don't know," she said.

Taylor is one of the residents who woke up to what looked like white ash in November. They later learned it was the release of spent catalyst. 

KPIX 5 spoke to her around April when she and neighbors were told they shouldn't consume anything grown in their yards. Then in June, the Contra Costa County health department said there were no lingering threats in the soil samples.

"This is the lone survivor of the original garden. This is my oregano," she said. "Can we eat our vegetables was one issue. Now, it's why did it happen, and that's what I want to know."

Taylor along with others started the "Healthy Martinez: Refinery Accountability Group," and among their list of demands is the installation of a wet gas scrubber to help clean the air.

"We're always on alert," Taylor said.

Just a couple of months ago in July, the Martinez Refining Company released petroleum coke.  

For Taylor and other residents, it's about accountability and making Martinez safer.

"Martinez is defined as a refinery town, but it's really not. It's a town that has a refinery. But it's a lot more than that," she said.

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