MARTINEZ – On Monday night, residents living near the Martinez refinery had the opportunity to voice their concerns to the Contra Costa County Health Department regarding the refinery’s spent catalyst release in November of 2022.
The health department held a meeting to discuss the findings of a review conducted by contractor TRC. It determined that the release of spent catalyst did not increase the risk to public health from exposure to hazardous materials in nearby soils.
The health department said the main health risk occurred in the first hours and days afterward when people may have inhaled the dust particles.
“Our concern is why we were not notified,” a resident said at the meeting Monday night, adding that they would have had time to bring their animals if they had known the release was going to happen.
The health department clarified that they were not aware that the refinery would release the spent catalyst. They found out a few days later.
“I am concerned that this report minimizes the effects of heavy metals,” another resident who listened to the meeting via Zoom said.
Heidi Taylor was one of the residents who barely listened. He 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,” he said.
Taylor was one of the residents who woke up to what appeared to be white ash last November. They later learned that it was the release of spent catalyst.
KPIX 5 spoke with him in April when he and neighbors were told they wouldn’t eat anything grown in their yards. Then in June, the Contra Costa County health department said there were no remaining threats in soil samples.
“This is the only survivor of the original garden. This is my oregano,” he said. “Can we eat our vegetables is an issue. Now, this is why it happened, and that’s what I want to know.”
Taylor and others started the “Healthy Martinez: Refinery Accountability Group,” and among their list of demands was the installation of wet gas scrubbers to help clean the air.
“We’re always on the alert,” Taylor said.
Just a few 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 really isn’t. It’s a town with a refinery. But it’s more than that,” he said.