Repost from KQED California Report
Problems at Valero’s Benicia Refinery Increase, Prompt Health AdvisoryBy Ted Goldberg, Mar 24, 2019, updated at 10:05am
Benicia city officials are urging residents with respiratory issues to stay inside because a two week old problem at the Valero refinery has intensified.
“Go inside your home, workplace, or the nearest building that appears to be reasonably airtight and stay there,” reads an advisory sent out by the city of Benicia Sunday morning.
The problem began on March 11 when a malfunction involving one of the refinery’s units led to the release of petroleum coke dust.
A Valero representative said then that refinery’s flue gas scrubber was “experiencing operational issues.”
The releases prompted local air regulators to issue seven notices of violation against the refinery.
Those problems eased after a few days but continued intermittently, air district officials said.
On Saturday several Benicia residents posted comments on the social media site, Nextdoor, expressing concerns about what appeared to be more black smoke coming from Valero’s stacks.
On Sunday that intensified.
This just got more serious. The @CityofBenicia has issued an advisory for all residents with respiratory issues to go inside because of the problems at @ValeroEnergy. ‘The concentration of particulate matter has become significantly higher over the past day.’ @KQEDnews https://t.co/cdDjTcV5x1
— Ted Goldberg (@TedrickG) March 24, 2019
“(The) City of Benicia has issued (an) advisory notice for all residents with respiratory issues due to particulate matter from an ongoing incident at the Valero Benicia Refinery,” the city’s statement reads.
City officials are telling local residents with weakened respiratory systems to close all doors, windows and fireplace dampers, urging them to put tape or damp towels around doors and windows to seal them.
The advisory also recommends that healthy people limit their outdoor activity.
“The concentration of particulate matter has become significantly higher over the past day. The emissions contain coke, a by-product of the refining process that is made up primarily of carbon particles,” the city’s statement says.
Benicia officials said testing of the coke dust released so far did not show heavy metals at harmful levels but warned that breathing in air from the releases could worsen underlying respiratory conditions like asthma.
In a statement, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District said inspectors are at the refinery investigating the cause of this heavy smoke. The Air District also deployed a monitoring van to drive throughout Benicia to “gather ground level emissions data.”