Martinez Refinery Flare Prompts Brief Contra Costa Health Advisory

Smoke plume rises from Tesoro's refinery in Martinez on Dec. 15.  (Andrew/News 24-680 via Twitter)

Updated, 2:10 p.m.

A flaring incident at the Tesoro oil refinery in Martinez prompted Contra Costa County health officials to issue a health alert in several communities early Tuesday afternoon.

The Level 2 alert was issued for people in Martinez, Pacheco, North Concord and Clyde who have "respiratory sensitivities."

The alert was canceled at about 1:30 p.m., after smoke produced by the flaring dissipated.

Maria Duazo, with the county Department of Health Services' hazardous materials program, said the flaring occurred after a boiler in a unit of the refinery malfunctioned at around 12:15 p.m.

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"As a result there was some black smoke that came off," Duazo said. "It appears that some odors came off, so we have some air monitors downwind from the refinery."

The Department of Health Services says the smoke, which was rapidly dispersed by brisk northerly winds, should not pose a hazard to most people in the area.

Just after 2 p.m., Tesoro issued a statement on the incident:

At approximately 11:47 PST this morning, Tesoro Martinez experienced a loss of our primary steam generation unit that caused upsets in several process units. These upsets resulted in flaring with visible smoke. A Community Warning System Level 2 was activated per procedure, due to the smoke drifting offsite.

There were no injuries as a result of this event. We do not expect any adverse health effects. We are working closely with Contra Costa County health personnel and other regulatory agencies.

At this time, the steam generation unit is back on-line, and the refinery is currently in stable condition at reduced rates. The refinery is no longer flaring.

Our main priority is to safely return the refinery to normal operations and to minimize the impact to the community and the environment.

As of 1400, the event has been downgraded to a CWS Level 0. Additional information will be provided as it becomes available.

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The hazardous materials program is expected to require Tesoro to provide a report on the incident within the next 72 hours.

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