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Chevron Refinery Flare-Up Raises Richmond Community Concerns

 The Chevron refinery stands aside the water in Richmond, California.
Flickr / Creative Commons
The Chevron refinery stands aside the water in Richmond, California.

A plume of heavy smoke from the Richmond Chevron refinery earlier this week has heightened community concerns over air quality.

Photos of the smoke were captured and circulated on social media, Tuesday, depicting what a Chevron spokesman said was a low-level flaring incident.

An unknown amount of sulfur dioxide vapor filled the air, triggering a Level One warning by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. That’s when an incident calls for monitoring and tracking, but not for an air quality warning, sirens or evacuation.

Refinery flares have been a constant source of air, water, and soil pollution around the plant, which was built in 1902. In 2012, billowing smoke associated with flares from a refinery fire forced thousands of people to seek medical treatment and led to a protracted legal fight with the city. Three years ago, the City of Richmond agreed to a $5 million settlement in the case.

And last year, Chevron agreed to pay the Bay Area Air Quality Management District $147,000 to cover nearly 30 air quality violations that occurred at the refinery during the two years leading up to the fire.