Air advisory in Benicia lifted after air quality improves

BENICIA, Calif. (KGO) -- The air advisory in Benicia has been lifted. People with respiratory problems were advised to stay indoors Sunday because of poor air quality due to emissions from the Valero Refinery.

Even people from San Francisco said they smelled smoke in the air.

The thick smoke seen billowing from the Valero Refinery was visible over Solano and Contra Costa counties over the past week.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District sent seven notices of violations for excess emissions. Sunday, Valero announced a controlled shutdown.

Irma Widjojo, with the city of Benicia, said, "There was coke, which is a refinery byproduct, that was detected in the emission, although it's not at a harmful level, this byproduct could worsen people with underlying health situations."

The pollutant levels in the air did get "significantly higher" over the past day-- prompting the shutdown.

In a written statement Valero said, "As a result of operational issues with the Valero Benicia Refinery Flue Gas Scrubber, we are in the process of safely shutting down processing units contributing to this situation in a manner that minimizes impact to the environment and community."

Kathy Dalton lives near the refinery. She says she's worried about air quality and glad to see the Valero closing down until the problem is fixed.

"I do believe they have put in new air monitors here in town. And I do believe people are getting more and more concerned the past couple of years. And truthfully, it does scare me as close as it live to it."
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