East Bay News

Residents find few answers at Chevron fire meeting

Monday, August 27, 2012

Federal, state, county and city officials on Monday updated the public on the investigation into the August 6 Chevron Refinery fire. But many locals were unhappy with what they heard and say they are tired of hearing a lot of talk and still not getting to the answer of why it happened.

"The biggest problem that we have, is that they don't have the answers," Black Economic Council spokesperson Yolanda Lewis said.

Those that filled the room wanted to know the root cause of the fire itself and what legal action might be taken against Chevron -- questions that officials could not answer, citing their active investigation.

"But I can't look you in the eye and tell you what that extent will be, because until we get the facts, we're not going to know," U.S. Environmental Protection Agency spokesperson Dan Meer said.

The smoke that blanketed the skies above neighborhoods is gone but its impact, for some, is still being felt.

"This is not my normal voice; this is my voice after Chevron, after the Chevron fire," Richmond resident Rita Xavier said.

On the August 6, the refinery set off sirens that blared for hours and could be heard for miles. A thick, plume of black smoke stretched across Contra Costa County as residents were given the order to shelter in place.

Three weeks later, residents are still asking what exactly was in that plume of smoke.

Experts are waiting for the results of air samples to answer that question conclusively. Until then, many are wondering if there will be changes made to the industry and if anyone will be criminally liable for all that has happened.

"I would love to tell you that we're going to fine them 'x' amount of money and they're going to have to do this that and the other thing but until we have all the facts, I just can't do that," Meer said.

Investigators say a full report could take more than a year to complete.

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chevron, richmond, fire, east bay news
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