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  Toxics Linger After Chevron Fire
November 19, 2012

Group: Toxics linger after Chevron fire
Peter Fimrite
Updated 9:22 p.m., Sunday, November 18, 2012
Cancer-causing chemicals linger around homes and in gardens over a 9-square-mile area more than three months after a catastrophic fire at the Chevron refinery in Richmond, according to an environmental justice group.

Independent testing by Global Community Monitor found that toxic fallout from the giant plume of smoke and soot that spewed from the plant on Aug. 6 blanketed an area stretching from Albany to San Pablo with dangerous hydrocarbons.

Five of eight samples of dust at different residential locations around the refinery had high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, in the dust and soil, said Denny Larson, executive director of the Richmond group, which tests for toxic substances in urban communities and advocates for tighter regulations and monitoring.

Among the carcinogenic compounds was benzo(a)pyrene, according to the laboratory analysis done by ALS Environmental in Kelso, Wash.

'Potent carcinogens'
"PAHs are extremely hazardous. They are one of the most potent carcinogens in existence," said Larson, adding that people, particularly outdoor gardeners, can inhale the dust, accumulate it through skin contact and eat it in produce. "We felt it was important to let people know that this stuff is still out there so that people can take the proper precautions."

Sean Comey, a spokesman for Chevron, questioned the results. "The conclusion of independent experts is that there is not a significant risk from the August 6 fire," he wrote in an e-mail. That's based on "air samples the Contra Costa County health department and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District took during the fire."

Wendel Brunner, director of the county's health department, could not be reached for comment.

The fire is believed to have been caused by hydrocarbon vapor leaking from a corroded pipe. It sent noxious smoke wafting over the East Bay, forcing thousands to seek shelter indoors and prompting 15,000 people to seek treatment at local hospitals.

Federal authorities are conducting a criminal investigation into accusations that Chevron, unbeknownst to regulators, piped pollutants around monitoring equipment at the refinery for four years and burned an unknown quantity of gases off into the atmosphere. California workplace regulators are also probing safety practices.

Still, nobody has been able to quantify exactly how many toxic chemicals were released into the community. Chevron officials have insisted that the white plume seen rising over the refinery just before the fire was mostly steam.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District, which is responsible for protecting air quality in the nine Bay Area counties, concluded after initial testing that all but one of the toxic pollutants commonly associated with petroleum production were at background levels during the fire and did not pose a significant health risk.

The problem, according to environmental analysts, was that only two of the eight air-quality monitoring stations in the area are in Richmond - and none is at the refinery.

Risk unknown
Larson said inadequate monitoring prompted his group to do its own testing. It is unclear what danger short-term exposure to the chemicals can pose, but Larson said the regulatory agencies should at least be conducting tests and warning people.
"Everybody agrees they are very potent carcinogens and that they have all these really nasty properties, but when it comes to judging the danger of a single event like this, there are no benchmarks or reference levels to judge the effect," Larson said. "Can we say that the exposure level was enough to bump anyone over to manifesting cancer? No. But it could be possible that this in combination with exposures over a lifetime could have a significant impact on a person's health."
Peter Fimrite is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: pfimrite@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @pfimrite
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/science/article/Group-Toxics-linger-after-Chevron-fire-4048522.php#ixzz2ChSIlB2n

For More Information Contact: Jessica Hendricks: 707-980-3816
or Denny Larson: 415-845-4705

Global Community Monitor Media Release
For Immediate Release: November 15, 2012
Full materials and photographs, maps etc at: http://gcmonitor.org/article.php?id=1577

Independent Test Results of Fallout from Chevron Fire Reveal Toxic Soot Over a Large Area
Residents’ Warned of Impacts on Vegetable Gardens and Precautions for Cleanup

(Richmond, CA)  Three months after the Chevron refinery fire, residents are still being impacted by the toxic plume of soot and chemicals that created potentially hazardous fallout in areas downwind of the fire.  A series of eight locations over a nine square mile area, from Albany to San Pablo, were sampled for highly carcinogenic compounds known to be released in large hydrocarbon fires such as the Chevron refinery fire.  Five of the eight samples had high levels of PAH’s (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) which pose a danger through inhalation, skin contact and eating of outdoor garden produce.

Residents worry about the chemical levels in their soil and vegetable gardens after heavy soot fallout came down on their homes during the Chevron Refinery fire on August 6, 2012.  One Richmond resident who participated in the testing program, Jenny Shore described the cloud, on the day of the fire, as ‘classic storybook ominous.’  She was working in her garden with her son when she saw a large black cloud in the sky, getting darker and darker.  As the cloud grew, she remembers thinking “It’s got to be Chevron.”   

Shore has been working extremely hard over the last few years to recover a healthy lifestyle for her family.  The produce that she and her son eat is primarily what they grow in their garden and she doesn’t own a vehicle.  During the fire, she had an immense feeling of dread knowing that she didn’t have access to a vehicle in the need of an evacuation as well as a sense of helplessness in protecting her main fresh, food source; her garden.

Shore’s big unanswered question is, is it safe to eat out of the garden? “We’ve made such progress in growing our own produce and this was such a monumental blow.  We shouldn’t have to change the lifestyle we’ve worked so hard to achieve.” 

Air sampling, for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH’s) done by Global Community Monitor indicated the presence of toxic chemicals in the dust on Shore’s property.

According to Dr. Mark Chernaik, a third party scientist retained by GCM to interpret such data, “PAHs were found in the wipe samples in measurable amounts, including benzo(a)pyrene [BaP], benz(a)anthracene, benzo(b)fluoranthene, indeno(1,2,3-c,d)pyrene, and dibenz(a,h)anthracene. BaP and several related PAHs are known to be potent, human carcinogens.”

“Two of the eight samples contained PAH levels that may reflect levels deposited on fruits and vegetables that pose an increased risk of cancer for lifetime of continuous ingestion.  It is unclear what the health impact of short-term exposures to these high levels of PAHs could cause.

“Our data shows the presence of 5 different chemicals, all of them are known carcinogens, including Group 1 carcinogen, benzo(a)pyrene.” claims Jessica Hendricks of Global Community Monitor. 

Hendricks collected wipe samples of the dust on residents’ property days after the fire.  Those wipes were then sent to a NELAP certified laboratory, ALS Environmental in Kelso Washington, for PAH analysis.  To account for ambient air quality in the area, Hendricks took two samples off of a controlled surface, left out for a week following the fire.  Those results showed very low levels of only a few PAH’s.

Shores, as well as other Richmond residents want Chevron to do the right thing and take responsibility for the toxic soot covering their property.  “Chevron has an opportunity to do the right thing in the eyes of the community.” Jenny Shore continues “they need to get people back to the same position they were in before.”

A popular recommendation made by Shore, “Chevron needs to bring in the right experts to fully understand the toxic levels and provide a weekly Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Box for all that were relying on their gardens, like we were.”

Dr. Chernaik continues:

“Five of the eight samples contained PAH levels that may reflect air concentrations that would pose an increased risk of cancer for a lifetime of continuous inhalation. It is unclear what the health impact of short-term exposures to these high levels of PAHs could cause.”

With regard to soil contamination, PAHs have a relatively long half-life in soil, around 200 days, so gardeners should be aware of this fact. .  However, because of poor uptake, I would not expect soil levels of PAHs to significantly elevate levels of PAHs in vegetables and fruits from local gardens.

PAHs maybe absorbed directly through the skin, so direct contact with the skin should be avoided, and fallout material cleaned up from surfaces with protective gloves.

There is evidence that PAHs can partition into human breast milk in published peer reviewed studies. Therefore, ingestion of PAHs can pose health risks to nursing infants. ”

Denny Larson, Executive Director of Global Community Monitor, issued the following statement in addition to the comments of Chernaik’s expert review of the data:

“Depending on the existing health conditions of each individual and their exposure to other toxins in heavy industrial areas such as Richmond and Contra Costa County, the impact of exposures to fallout with significant PAH content through multiple pathways, such as air, food and skin contact could represent a significant increased risk to health. Since relevant agencies have yet to warn the public of the potential risks and proper care and cleanup methods over 2 months since the fire and ensuing fallout, it is possible that individuals may have been exposed to the PAHs in the fallout multiple times through various means such as eating produce from their gardens, coming into contact with surfaces and not adequately removing the toxins from living and workplaces.
Given this information, it appears that a large populated area of homes, urban gardens, schools, businesses and public places became potentially contaminated with significant levels of carcinogenic PAH’s.   If the eight samples represent the geographic are affected, the fallout may have contaminated an area of nine square miles. It is appropriate to ask why none of the various responsible government agencies collected samples of these pollutants during or after the fire.  A full explanation in writing should be required of these agencies of their failure to take this reasonable action. 
I understand that the sample data and my preliminary interpretation was provided to several agencies, yet they have neither conducted their own testing or provided any information to the public about the contents of the fallout or precautions that should be taken to avoid contact and clean up the material.  The public has a right to know information about the content of the fallout and this responsibility is lodged with the Bay Area Air District and the Contra Costa County Department of Health at a minimum.  If these agencies questioned the methods employed by GCM, they still had an obligation to conduct their own tests in a timely fashion.
The failure of public agencies charged to protect community health by respecting the Right To Know and investigate fully the contents of widespread fallout following the Chevron fire of August 6, 2012 is unacceptable and should be investigated by the State of California, the Inspector General of the US EPA and other relevant agencies exercising oversight of these agencies.
In addition, steps should be taken so that future fires and toxic releases from any industry in the Bay Area be better monitored during and after such events using state of the art and real time technologies which are well established and widely used.”
GCM's work focuses on disempowered "fenceline" communities harmed by serious air pollution from industrial sources and whose concerns agencies and responsible corporations are ignoring.

Over the past dozen years, GCM has developed and pioneered the use of “bucket brigades” (a grassroots air monitoring program) as a method for communities to document and understand the impacts of industrial pollution, to launch advocacy efforts against polluters, and to win stunning victories.  GCM has worked with 100 partner groups in 27 diverse countries.
The Cover-up: Chevron Richmond Refinery Explosion-Fire, Health And Safety And Cal-Osha
by United Public Workers For Action
Monday Nov 19th, 2012 6:36 AM
At a meeting of United Public Workers For Action, former Cal-Osha Medical Unit Manager Dr. Larry Rose reported that Cal-Osha had ignored serious USW worker complaints about health and safety and had refused to prosecute them for criminal negligence in the Richmond Chevron refinery.

The Criminal Cover-up: Chevron Richmond Refinery Explosion-Fire, Health And Safety And Cal-Osha Dr. Larry Rose, the former director of Cal-Osha Medical Unit gave a  presentation on 11/10/12 on the causes of the explosion and fire at the Chevron  refinery and the failure of Ca-Osha to properly supervise the  dangerous oil refinery and also the failure to properly investigate
the causes of the environmental disaster. Cal-Osha according to Dr.  Rose knew the pipes were bad because USW Cheveron refinery  workers had reported this to Cal-Osha but no action was taken. He  reports that Chevron was criminally negligent but that Ca-Osha also  refused to enforce the laws against Chevron's Richmond's refinery  to protect the workers and the community.

Dr. Rose pointed out  that it was fortunate that no workers were killed at the refinery  but there are no reports about what happened to these workers  and the protection of their health and safety.

He also reports that serious contamination of the workers and community  took place and continues because of the failure of these agencies to  properly enforce the law and regulations.

This presentation was made in Richmond, California at a forum of  United Public Workers  For more information go to

Cal-Osha Down The Tubes
California Coalition For Workers Memorial Day
Injured Workers National Network
Produced by United Public Workers For Action