Martinez refinery flaring operation sends massive flames into night sky

Bay City News
Saturday, December 10, 2022
Officials: Large flames at Martinez refinery are part of flaring event
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Large flames seen at Martinez refinery are part of flaring event, says company and fire officials.

MARTINEZ, Calif. -- A planned, routine flare-up at a Martinez oil refinery late Friday afternoon, which became a cause for concern for some nearby residents, has concluded, according to the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office.

A Contra Costa Fire Protection District spokesperson said firefighters responded to reports of a fire or explosion at the Martinez Refinery Company late Friday afternoon, but later canceled its emergency response to the 3400 block of Pacheco Boulevard, where the refinery is located, because the large flames that were seen in the area were a result of the flare-up.

RELATED: Mysterious white ash coats neighborhoods near Martinez Refinery; health dept. investigating

Refinery officials confirm the flare-up -- conducted to burn off deposits -- was part of an ongoing special operation. The operation, including the fire, was confined to refinery property.

The refinery has come under recent scrutiny when Contra Costa County health officials said it did not notify them of a possibly harmful 12-hour release of chemicals that started on the evening of Thanksgiving two weeks ago.

VIDEO: Ash released from Martinez refinery contained unusual amounts of heavy metals, officials say

Residents of Martinez discovered their cars and businesses covered by a mysterious powder the day after Thanksgiving. Contra Costa Health officials are now investigating what appears to have been a release of possibly harmful chemicals that they say they were never informed of.

State law and county policy require MRC to report chemical discharges to CCH within 15 minutes. Health officials said they only found out about the chemical discharges release through social media posts and when they contacted the refinery a day and a half after it started.

Following that, Martinez residents found a powdery substance on their cars and around the community the day after Thanksgiving. Samples later taken by CCH showed the "spent catalyst" substance contained higher-than-normal amounts of heavy metals such as aluminum, barium, chromium, nickel, vanadium, and zinc.

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