Chevron to open claims office after refinery fire

(KGO)
August 9, 2012 5:40:12 PM PDT
A federal agency has begun its investigation into the Chevron refinery fire in Richmond and Chevron says it will open up a claims office Friday. This follows Monday night's fire that spewed thick clouds of toxic smoke into the air, sending hundreds of people to hospitals with breathing problems. The claims office will be located in a popular community center in Richmond which should see some long lines when it opens at 9 a.m.

More than 1,000 people have already contact Chevron complaining that they've been affected by the fire. It's an overwhelming number and that's why Chevron decided to open up a temporary claims office at the Nevin Community Center on 6th Street and Nevin Ave. in Richmond. Chevron says it hopes to respond to all of the claims within three days.

All of this is happening while several agencies are at the refinery investigating the fire and now, the feds are involved. Investigators from the federal agency charged with looking at serious chemical accidents are at the Chevron refinery. The seven-member team from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board is still waiting for Cal-OSHA to give them permission to go into unit four where the fire occurred Monday, but they've begun gathering data, checking records and interviewing witnesses.

Board member Mark Griffon says this is one of several investigations around the country. "We're quite concerned about the continued frequency of incidents in this industry as well as the ongoing safety problems that we've noted throughout the country," he said.

While the multi-agency investigations continued at the refinery, Chevron made preparations at the Nevin Community Center for Friday's opening of its claims office. Since the fire, huge crowds of residents claiming health effects have been filling the office of personal injury attorney Nick Haney. The same should hold true Friday at the community center.

"I got asthma and my eyes have been getting watery and it's like my heart's been getting tight," Richmond resident Emerson Robinson told ABC7 News. "I just want to see it settled. I just want to see justice happen."

"I have headaches. I've been having headaches ever since Monday night. I got up and went to the doctor. I'm not feeling good. My chest is clogged. I don't feel good, you know? They got to pay for that," resident Leah Trevillion said. "I have everything with me. They told me that my headaches are not good. It just came out of nowhere. So, I hadn't been having migraines and actually, I was there all night on IVs," she said.

Trevillion typifies the attitude of many who live around the refinery. There was a lot of anger at a community meeting Chevron held Tuesday night. Professor Stephen Zavestoski is an environmental sociologist at USF. He says that what's happening in the aftermath of the fire is normal among people who have lived near a refinery for a long time, people who feel their health has been affected by chemical leaks. "People who feel as if they should be compensated for the burden that they've been bearing for as long as they've lived there are seeing the event Monday night as an opportunity perhaps to finally get that compensation," he said.

However, not everyone believes Chevron has been a bad neighbor. "If Chevron leaves Richmond, we're going to end up like Detroit. They're good neighbors. They help. They give things ing the community," said longtime Richmond resident Marshal Walker.

Chevron is required to fill out a very basic report with Contra Costa County Health Services by the end of the day Friday. All the other details of the incident are being investigated by the outside agencies. It appears that investigation will take a long time.

Help Center Location:
Nevin Community Center
598 Nevin Avenue
Richmond, CA

Hours of Operation:
9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday
8:00 a.m. to Noon, Saturday

Live operators are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for those wishing to file a claim by phone. The number is 866-260-7881.


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