Richmond City Council blasts wastewater plant operator over odor, environmental concerns

ByTim Johns KGO logo
Wednesday, December 13, 2023
Richmond blasts wastewater plant over odor, environmental concerns
The Richmond City Council called out the wastewater plant Tuesday night at the emergency air quality meeting over odor and environmental concerns.

RICHMOND, Calif. (KGO) -- Impassioned comments from community members in Richmond Tuesday night.

"Simply don't renew the contract," said one Richmond resident.

The city council encouraging public feedback at an emergency meeting over the city's air quality.

The meeting was called after the East Bay city was hit by several environmental events over the past few weeks.

At the Chevron refinery - flaring incidents and a stench.

VIDEO: Flaring at Richmond Chevron refinery caused by partial power loss at facility, officials say

Smoke was seen over the Chevron refinery in Richmond Monday afternoon due to a partial loss of power that caused flaring activity.

And then a strong smell covering parts of the city after the release of hydrogen sulfide into the air by Richmond's wastewater plant.

"I came in here angry about living in the smell of poop," said another angry resident.

During the 3.5 hour meeting, city council members intensely questioned representatives from Veolia - the company that manages the wastewater plant.

They said this wasn't the first time something like this had happened.

They also criticized the amount of time it took Veolia to notify the city of the incident.

RELATED: Strong odor reported in area of Chevron's Richmond refinery, city officials say

"These types of things continue to happen and we get great promises. But when an incident actually happens there seems to be a lack of follow through," said Councilmember Doria Robinson.

Veolia says the odor was caused by construction to replace an old fan and the draining of a wastewater processing tank at the facility.

"We want to dispel any doubt that we haven't taken this matter seriously," said Veolia regional vice president, Melissa Sandvold.

The company admitted they made mistakes in the way they handled the situation during Tuesday's meeting.

MORE: Public nuisance violation issued to Richmond Chevron Refinery during odor inspection, officials say

They also vowed to improve their communication with the city and have better safeguards in place to prevent future incidents.

"We've retrained our staff, we've reviewed our construction activities, as well as normal operations and are in the process of creating detailed, standard operating procedures and finalization of a full investigation," Sandvold said.

The Richmond City Council unanimously passed a motion that among other things, will look into if Veolia violated their contract with the city, as well as explore the possibility of finding a new wastewater plant operator.

Because while Veolia is expected to produce a report detailing last week's incident in Jan., council members say they want immediate action.

"It's about our community. It's about holding people responsible, and holding people accountable," said Councilmember Cesar Zepeda.

Now Streaming 24/7 Click Here

If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live