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Oil spill at Chevron refinery in Contra Costa County prompts public health warning

The Chevron oil refinery in Richmond
A mixture of oil and gasoline began leaking from a pipeline at the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond on Tuesday.
(Associated Press)

Contra Costa County authorities issued a public health advisory Tuesday afternoon after a Chevron refinery in Richmond began spilling a petroleum product into the San Francisco Bay.

Tyler Kruzich, a spokesman for Chevron, said refinery employees first noticed a sheen in the water about 3 p.m. The company immediately started working to contain the leak and notified the various state and federal agencies that respond to oil spills, he said.

A spill report from the state’s Office of Emergency Services said a refinery pipeline was leaking roughly five gallons per minute of an oil and gasoline mixture into the bay.

Footage from the Bay Area ABC7 helicopter showed an iridescent sheen hugging the coastline and extending into the bay.

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The leak was stopped about 5 p.m., according to Chevron and Contra Costa County officials. It remained unclear what caused it, the spill report said.

The extent of the spill was unclear Tuesday evening. The state report, which was generated at 4 p.m., said about 100 gallons had been spilled.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District, a regulatory agency that dispatched inspectors to the scene, wrote on Twitter that about 600 gallons of a “petroleum and water mixture” had leaked.

Eric Laughlin, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said it was too early to say how much petroleum had entered the bay. Officials were working Tuesday night to contain the spread of the oil and identify delicate habitats at particular risk, he said. State authorities were weighing whether to issue a fisheries closure for the area.

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No animals coated in oil had been reported, Laughlin said. If you spot an oil-slicked animal, don’t try to approach or capture it, he said; instead call the state’s Oiled Wildlife Care Network at (800) 823-6926.

Contra Costa County issued a public health advisory for the cities of Richmond, North Richmond and San Pablo, warning that residents with “respiratory sensitivities” could feel irritation of the eyes, skin, nose or throat.

The U.S. Coast Guard, the Richmond Fire Department, a Contra Costa County hazmat unit and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response were responding to the spill. Kruzich, the Chevron spokesman, said those agencies have the company’s full cooperation.


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