MARTINEZ — Hazardous materials and air officials visited a troubled Martinez refinery Tuesday to launch an unannounced inspection into why it has been the center of numerous health-threatening incidents for more than a year .
Inspection conducted by Contra Costa Health Services and assisted by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District will observe the company’s operating, reliability and safety programs Contra Costa Refinery, which is owned by New Jersey-based PBF Energy, Inc., health officials said. announced in a press release.
Deputy Health Director Matthew Kaufmann said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday that the inspection could last “a few days or even a few weeks” as officials want to do a “thorough analysis” of the refinery.
“Part of our focus is on refinery reliability in general,” Kaufmann said. “Their staff are truly integral to security. So we want to make sure they are well trained, understand the procedures and are committed to safety.
Federal Glover and John Gioia, two members of the county Board of Supervisors, are also expected to meet with refinery officials on Thursday.
“Repeated commitments to the community and regulators to improve the safety culture within PBF have not resulted in improvement,” Glover said in the county release announcing the inspection. “We intend to hold PBF accountable for making the investments necessary to become a better neighbor. »
Messages sent to Martinez Refining Company late Tuesday afternoon were not immediately returned.
The refinery last came to the agency’s attention on Dec. 15, when a public notice was issued after refinery flaring caused excess sulfur compounds to leak and stink up the air around Martinez, Pacheco and Pleasant like rotten garbage.
In October, the refinery sent a plume of black dust over Martinez that nearly canceled the town’s homecoming parade. This was caused by “coke dust” and marked the third such event since July.
In their statement, health officials said there have been 21 documented releases or spills in 2023, including one earlier this month that caused a grass fire at the facility. Kauman said refinery officials did not initially report that flaring of certain chemicals caused the fire.
The refinery has been in the news since Thanksgiving 2022, when flaring from the facility rained a white powdery substance on the city.
“This is not a regular inspection,” Kaufmann said. “We have conducted unannounced inspections in the past, but I will say that the Ministry of Health is very concerned, and that is why we embarked on this particular inspection.”
Kaufmann added that the investigation was in its early stages and it was “a little early to speculate on the findings and what the consequences might be.”
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