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East Bay | Environment & Forest Defense

Richmond residents not alerted about Chevron Refinery Fire on Monday 1-15
by Jessica
Thursday Jan 18th, 2007 1:32 PM
Richmond residents in immediate vicinity of Chevron refinery outraged by lack of warning about Monday's accident -- by audible sirens or by telephone warning system in English or native languages
For Immediate Release January 18, 2007

Contact: Mimi Ho, Asian Pacific Environmental Network. Cell: 510-506-2734
Jessica Tovar, Communities for a Better Environment Cell: 415-596-3517

Interviews available in English, Spanish, Khmu.

Richmond residents in immediate vicinity of Chevron refinery outraged by lack of warning about Monday's accident -- by audible sirens or by telephone warning system in English or native languages

Amid the concern about Monday's fire at Chevron and the delay in the telephone warning system, residents living in the immediate area surrounding the refinery are concerned and upset that they did not get adequate notification of the refinery accident – either by refinery siren, by telephone warning system in English or in their native languages. According the Contra Costa Health Department, the telephone warning system was only activated in Point Richmond because of the wind direction.

"When you live right across from the refinery, it doesn't matter what direction the wind is blowing. You are in harm's way," said Jackie Saephan, a Laotian member of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) who lives 8 blocks from the Chevron refinery. "Monday morning, we didn't hear anything at all, and at 6am, my parents left the house. Monday and Tuesday, I was feeling dizzy and nauseous, but didn't know until Tuesday night when APEN called me that there was an accident."

"I speak English and I didn't know what was going on," continued Jackie Saephan. "My parents and many others in Richmond don't speak English – what information did they get? Hundreds of APEN's members fought for a Laotian language multilingual warning system for accidents like these, but we didn't even get notified in English or by a siren!"

After the March 1999 Chevron accident, APEN's Laotiaon members fought for and won a multilingual warning system that would broadcast warnings in three Laotian languages, becoming the nation's first multilingual warning system. To date, only 30 Laotian families have systems installed by the Contra Costa Health Department. Other non-English speaking communities do not have any warning system in their native languages.

The Contra Costa Health Department admits that the sirens are not loud enough to be heard by people sleeping in their homes, particularly with their windows closed. "I was woken up by helicopters and fire truck sirens, not the refinery sirens," said Rudolph Mena, a Spanish speaking resident and member of Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) whose home is directly across from Chevron oil refinery. "The sirens were not loud enough, and most people here on Curry St. slept through them," said Patrice Fambrini, also a CBE member and an Atchison Village resident whose home is across from the Chevron Refinery. "We weren't prepared for an emergency. No information was provided."

"Companies like Chevron can't continue to make money at the expense of our lives," said Mimi Ho, Program Director of APEN. "The bigger problem is that refineries like Chevron are dumped in communities of color, and it's poor people and people of color who live and breathe the consequences of these accidents. We want to hear from Chevron, Contra Costa County, and the City of Richmond. We want a full explanation of where the warning system went wrong, how they are going to hold Chevron and themselves accountable, a plan to prevent accidents, and a plan to make sure Chevron pays its fair share in Richmond which goes far beyond even just fixing the warning system."

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