At 4:50 pm Friday, Contra Costa County Fire responded to a report of flaring at the Martinez Refining Company in the 3400 block of Pacheco Blvd. in the city of Martinez. Residents also reported hearing what sounded like an explosion.
A short-time later, all units were cancelled as the refining company says this was “planned”. The incident prompted many calls from residents.
The company issued the following statement:
We are experiencing a flaring event at the Martinez Refining Company. We apologize for impacting some of our neighbors and thank our employees who are safely responding to resolve the equipment issue that is causing intermittent flaring. Flares are an essential part of a refinery’s integrated, engineered safety systems. Flares are designed to safely manage excess combustible gases, by burning them off efficiently and effectively.
As always, we have a community inquiry phone number you can call 925-313-3777 or 925-313-3601 during off work hours.
5:25 pm: Con Fire has canceled it’s response to reports of a fire and/or explosion in the 3400 block of Pacheco, Martinez. Martinez Refining Company officials report observations a result of an ongoing special operation confined to refinery property
5:37 pm: Contra Costa Health’s HazMat Team is responding to reports of flaring at the refinery in Martinez. We’ll provide updates as we learn more.
6:09 pm: County Hazmat stated the flaring event had been “cleared”.
7:51 pm UPDATE per Contra Costa Health Services:
Contra Costa Health and partners are investigating a flaring incident at Martinez Refining Company that began shortly before 5 p.m. Friday.
The flaring subsided shortly after 6 p.m. No offsite health concerns were detected as of 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The incident began about 4:50 p.m., when the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District began receiving 911 calls from the community regarding an explosion and fire at Martinez Refining Company.
Responding firefighting units conferred with refinery personnel and determined the flare was operating as designed and the fire was under control.
CCH’s Hazardous Materials team was notified about the incident at 5 p.m. by the refinery and deployed a team to conduct air sampling. Air monitoring has determined there is no imminent health risk to the community at this time, and there is no need to shelter in place.
Staff from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) also responded to investigate.
CCH, BAAQMD, Contra Costa Fire and the City of Martinez are coordinating closely to investigate and communicate with the public regarding this incident.
The refinery initially reported that a compressor failure caused the flaring. CCH is investigating the incident, and further details will be made available in the refinery’s 72-hour report about the incident, as required by the county’s notification policy.
The report is due to CCH by 5 p.m. Monday and will be posted at cchealth.org/hazmat.
BAY AREA AIR QUALITY MANAGEMENT DISTRICT REPORT
The flaring resulted in a reportable quantity of sulfur dioxide for exceeding 500 pounds. The MRC representative shared ground level monitoring data with Air District staff and no exceedances were observed. Air District staff observed that the flaring stopped at 1744 hours.
Contra Costa County Hazardous Materials (HazMat) staff was onsite as well. HazMat collected air samples at various locations and supplied those samples to Air District staff for further analysis. Air District will continue its investigation of the event.
There have been no Notices of Violation issued at this time, but we anticipate discovery of regulatory violations as we move forward with our investigation. We will provide additional updates once we obtain further information
UPDATE City of Martinez to Develop Own Community Warning System
Announcement Issued Saturday
We are hearing from the community about concerns regarding a lack of timely communication from the City related to last night’s flaring incident at the refinery. We understand your frustration regarding the notification process, and we want to do better.
There are multiple agencies that respond when significant events occur at the Martinez refinery. The County is tasked with the very important responsibility of determining whether a community warning is needed, including a shelter in place. Contra Costa Health presented information at the City Council meeting this past Wednesday about the community warning system, and the three levels that guide their outreach to the community about major events. While the City cannot get out ahead of these notification steps, we can work more expeditiously to communicate timely information to the community. To strengthen our communication and coordination, here are some initial steps we plan to take:
- We will continue meeting with County agencies weekly, and daily if needed, to follow-up on recent events at the refinery. When the County or the Air District has an update to share, we will work quickly to re-share the information.
- We will debrief with all agencies involved in last night’s response to the refinery incident to review communication protocols.
- We will announce information next week regarding a time and date for an upcoming community meeting. The following agencies will be invited: Martinez Refining Company, Contra Costa Health, Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office, and Contra Costa County Fire Protection District. All of these groups play a role in ensuring the community is informed about events occurring, and whether there are any health and safety concerns.
In addition to this, the City will be developing its own local notification system to more quickly communicate to residents and businesses when an event is occurring, rather than having to rely solely on the County’s community warning system.