Saturday’s ‘coke dust’ release marks the Martinez Refining Company’s second leak in two weeks

[BenIndy Contributor Nathalie Christian: A big thanks to Michelle Pellegrin for alerting me to this second coke dust release.]

A picture of Martinez Refining Company in the distance with residences in the foreground.
The Martinez Refining Company has reported two petcoke leaks in less than two weeks. | Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group.

Mercury News, by Will McCarthy, July 23, 2023

The Martinez Refining Company reported the second release of ‘coke dust’ in less than two weeks on Saturday evening, according to the Contra Costa County Health Department.

The health department said that hazmat teams did not immediately find evidence of coke dust in surrounding neighborhoods following the release. Coke dust is a black sooty substance chemically similar to charcoal that is created during the refining process.

The refinery first reported the release of coke dust, a byproduct of petroleum refining, at 6:04 p.m.

The Martinez Refining Company issued a statement on Facebook indicating that the release was contained within refinery grounds, and that there were not any “off-site impacts.” The statement said that the report was only issued out of an “abundance of caution,” and that the refinery “immediately contacted appropriate agencies and conducted community monitoring.”

“We apologize for any concern this may have caused our community,” the statement read.

After the previous release on July 11th, Contra Costa County health officials advised residents to avoid breathing the black dust released by the Martinez Refinery Company and to avoid making close contact with it until hazardous-materials teams were able to collect and test samples of the residue.

In that case, the health department ultimately concluded the release did not pose a long term health threat.

The oil refinery is currently under investigation for the release of toxic heavy metals into the community in November 2022.


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