MARTINEZ — An independent investigation by Contra Costa County into a refinery that released hazardous metal-laden dust for six hours on Thanksgiving needs volunteers from the area that was dusted.

Health officials with the county in a statement said the volunteers are needed for a committee that will oversee the investigation into the Martinez Refining Company.

On Thanksgiving, the refinery leaked a white powdery substance that had higher-than-normal amounts of heavy metals that over time can cause breathing issues. The refinery, once known as the Shell Oil Refinery, is located in the 3400 block of Pacheco Boulevard and owned by PBF Energy.

The independent investigation will run parallel to the investigation that the Martinez Refinery Company is required to conduct.

Health officials said the leaked material contained aluminum, barium, chromium, nickel, vanadium and zinc in higher levels than are safe.

The committee will be nine members and chaired by a staff member from the county’s hazardous materials program. Five volunteers will represent the people of Martinez and Pacheco, where the leak occurred. Representatives from the City of Martinez, the Martinez Refining Company and labor organizations representing the refinery’s workers also will be on the committee.

A subcommittee of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors tasked the Contra Costa Health Department with rounding up the volunteers

In its statement, the Contra Costa Health Services said the oversight committee will advise the Board of Supervisors and hazardous materials program on the hiring of contractors to probe the cause of the Thanksgiving release. The committee also will advise those officials as the affect the leak had on community health and the environment.

Health officials said the refinery company did not report the release via the county’s Community Warning System or directly to the health department. Those actions would be violations of the county’s notification policy, because the prevented an immediate response, officials said.

Health department officials have referred the case to the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office.

The refinery has had flaring episodes since the Thanksgiving leak, including an incident Dec. 22 that prompted a demand from hazardous materials officials for a 72-hour report from the company to explain it.


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