The day earlier than the native highschool’s homecoming parade final week, the Martinez Refining Firm posted on Fb wishing college students a cheerful homecoming.
However simply 24 hours later, the refinery fairly actually solid a black cloud over the occasion.
At 11 a.m. on Friday, October 6, an ominous plume of black mud bellowed up from the Martinez Refining Firm and floated into town’s downtown.
In a collection of occasions which have begun to appear unnervingly acquainted, the Contra Costa County well being division despatched out a notification that they’d “deployed a hazardous supplies group.” The refinery posted on Fb, apologizing for a “temporary launch of Coke mud,” a black charcoal-like substance created in the course of the refining course of.
Finally, the county well being division stated that the parade ought to be cleared to proceed as deliberate and that they’d “not discovered proof of any rapid danger” to the group.
It was solely the most recent in a collection of chemical releases that now appear to return on an almost month-to-month foundation, and the third coke mud occasion since July.
“It’s a disturbing new regular,” stated Heidi Taylor, a founding member of Wholesome Martinez, a refinery accountability group. “I’m not going to dwell in a world the place black mud on my property, my animals, my vehicles is simply regular.”
The saga started final yr on Thanksgiving night time, when residents woke as much as a layer of wonderful white silt on their vehicles, rubbish cans, and window sills. The Martinez Refining Firm, whose sprawling campus defines the east aspect of town, stated the discharge was “non-toxic,” “non-hazardous”, and “naturally occurring” spent catalyst mud used within the refining course of.
Solely days later did the County Well being Division alert residents that the sand contained dangerous metals like aluminum, chromium, and barium. Over the previous yr, there have been a number of different releases from the refinery, though none as dangerous or widespread because the incident in November.
The County Well being Division and the refinery have each talked about incomes belief, and the well being division held a public assembly to assist facilitate that simply weeks earlier than this most up-to-date occasion.
However to involved residents, the discharge on Friday exhibits that the identical elementary subject stays unresolved. Of their view, the group’s well being is getting used as a stand-in for an efficient early warning system as releases proceed.
“Right here’s the issue: the group members, we’re the warning system,” Taylor stated. “We’re those saying, ‘oh my god, there may be mud on their vehicles’. What kills me is that’s not our job.”
Though the Friday coke mud launch was categorised as a Degree 1 within the Group Warning System, that means that no off-site well being impacts are anticipated, posts on social media contradicted that categorization.
Cady Masterman, a mom and Martinez resident, stated she discovered black mud masking her youngster’s stroller shortly after the discharge.
“My husband despatched me an image of black mud specks on the stroller,” stated Masterman, a 4 yr resident of Martinez. “An MRC consultant and a Contra Costa HazMat consultant got here to our home and stated the mud is carbon, non-toxic. Both method, I’m going to clean the stroller as if it’s harmful.”
Contra Costa County Well being had not replied to a request for remark by press time.
Though each the refinery and the well being division have described the petroleum coke mud as non-hazardous, the EPA has expressed issues in regards to the well being results of the substance, particularly in small particles.
“It’s ironic, it’s disgusting, it’s all types of adjectives,” Taylor stated. “And it’s simply not acceptable.”