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Cleanup efforts were in progress Wednesday near the Chevron refinery long wharf in Richmond where a petroleum product leak that began Tuesday afternoon spilled an estimated five gallons a minute into the Bay.
Following criticism from elected officials and an environmental group, a team of county, state and federal officials joined with Chevron to take over the cleanup. The unified command consists of officials from Contra Costa Health Services, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response and the U.S. Coast Guard along with Chevron.
The change in oversight was announced in a news release issued Wednesday morning by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The new command is “actively monitoring the situation to evaluate any potential public health issues related to the incident. An hourly VHF channel 16 broadcast is advising Mariners to maintain distance while clean-up operations continue.”
An additional 2,100 feet of containment boom was placed around the spill site and three oil skimmers were running through the night in the recovery effort.
Workers at the Chevron refinery first noticed a sheen on the water about 3 p.m. Tuesday. “Chevron immediately initiated its response protocol, began working to isolate and contain the release, and notified all applicable agencies,” the company said in a statement.
The state news release confirmed Chevron’s account of its initial response, which quickly attracted local criticism.
Some 600 gallons went into the Bay between 2:40 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., when the leak was stopped, according to Contra Costa Supervisor John Gioia, who said “This is unacceptable!” in a post on social media.
Chevron’s initial response was “inadequate” and “oil quickly breached Chevron’s containment boom,” Oakland-based environmental watchdog group San Francisco Baykeeper said in a statement, releasing photos to back its contentions.
The incident was classified as Level 2 (Level 1 is the lowest) and Contra Costa Health Services issued an advisory shortly before 4 p.m. for Richmond, San Pablo and unincorporated North Richmond, warning those with sensitive respiratory conditions to stay indoors to avoid irritation of nose, throat and eyes.
Initially, booms were placed to control the spread of the spill, but the East Bay Regional Park District had to close beaches as a safety measure and “petroleum washed ashore along South Richmond shoreline which will harm wildlife and marine life,” Gioia said.
State officials said that while no oiled animals have been reported, the public should report any oiled wildlife encounters or sightings to the Oiled Wildlife Care Network at 1-877-UCD-OWCN (1-800-823-6926).