The skies above Martinez Refining Company were momentarily darkened this past Saturday when a "small amount" of coke dust was inadvertently released into the air, according to statements from the company. The incident, which occurred around 1:15 p.m., prompted an immediate response from on-site employees who contained the release within the refinery's vicinity.
"Our trained employees rapidly and safely responded, keeping the petroleum coke on-site, in the immediate vicinity where the material was being moved," the company shared on its Facebook page. Following established protocols, the company quickly issued a Community Warning System Level 1 notification, alerted appropriate agencies, and executed a community monitoring operation. Contrary to the refinery's assertion that the release was contained without off-site impacts, Contra Costa Health initially informed on social media of potential effects beyond the refinery's premises.
However, following a thorough assessment by their HazMat team, Contra Costa Health concluded that there were no detectable off-site impacts from the release, bringing some relief to nearby residents. The health department updated the public via X post, stating, "Our HazMat team has completed its assessment and concluded there is no evidence of off-site impacts from the earlier coke-dust release at the Martinez Refining Company."
This is not the refinery's first experience with accidental releases, the incident recalls a significant mishap on Thanksgiving 2022 when 20-24 tons of spent catalysts were accidentally discharged. The impact of that event led to investigations by an independent panel appointed by the county board of supervisors and a separate scrutiny by the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office. The refinery expressed apology for the concern the incident may have caused, offering two community inquiry phone numbers for residents to call for more information, "As always, we have a community inquiry phone number you can call at (925) 313-3777 or (925) 313-3601 during off work hours," mentioned in a statement obtained by Patch.com.