A Chevron Richmond Refinery oil spill that spread toxic waste across the San Francisco Bay was controlled on Tuesday, with authorities conducting cleanup operations.
The energy company said it first observed something in the water near its refinery at around 3:00 p.m. Officials revealed approximately 600 gallons of a mix of “petroleum and water” made its way into the waters of the Bay before authorities got it under control.
Massive Oil Spill
“We understand that the source is no longer pouring out into the Bay, but there is product in the Bay. They do have a containment boom, and they are working to contain that to minimize the spread of the sheen and the petroleum product,” said Maria Dulazo, Contra Costa County’s Hazardous Materials Specialist.
On Twitter, Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia revealed that the refinery was spewing out five gallons of the toxic waste per minute. He noted that Chevron staff were on the scene assisted by local firefighters in case of emergencies.
“Full investigation will occur. I spoke to Assemblymember Buffy Wicks tonight, and she plans to introduce a bill to increase fines and penalties in order to provide more effective deterrence. This is unacceptable,” a Facebook post by Gioia said.
Don Mill, a Point Richmond resident, said he first noticed the smell of the petroleum mix on Tuesday around noon. One friend of Mill’s, who was at her beach home painting, was only 300 to 400 meters away from where the spill started. She told him that the smell of the toxic waste made her feel sick.
“I’ve lived here a long time, 35 years, and we’ve had a couple incidents where there’s been an oil spill. This smelled more toxic. It did not smell like gasoline to us. We had neighbors calling us three hours later asking, ‘Are you smelling this?’” Mill said.
Chevron stationed several booms to try and contain the spill, but the gravity of the situation forced the closure of beaches. Additionally, Gioia said the oil spill posed a hazard to wildlife and marine life in the area.
The refinery announced it was cooperating with authorities, including the U.S. Coast Guard and the Office of Spill Prevention and Response of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, to control the spread of the toxic wastes, the San Francisco Gate reported.
In a statement, the San Francisco Baykeeper group said Chevron’s initial response to the oil spill was “inadequate.” the Oakland-based environment group said the company allowed the toxic waste to quickly spread outwards from the containment boom.
“Chevron’s oil pipeline leak today is bad news for the Bay – we’re unfortunately still learning how big the oil spill was and what the impacts are. The Bay Area’s five refineries have a long history of environmental violations, so they should be prepared for a situation like this,” the executive director of Baykeeper, Sejal Choksi-Chugh, said. She also called Chevron’s initial response “pathetic.”
Choksi-Chugh said the group’s field investigator was among the first to arrive at the scene of the oil spill. The personnel noted the toxic waste has already spread beyond the boom and into the Bay. The chemicals also reached nearby shorelines and beaches. Authorities said the cause of the spill was not immediately known.