SF Bay Area Indymedia indymedia
About Contact Subscribe Calendar Publish Print Donate

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."

# # #

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by not you
Thursday Jan 18th, 2007 4:23 PM
The Chevron refinery was not "dumped into (a) community of color". It has been there since 1904, when there was nothing else there. The residential housing came decades later.
by Residents recieve all problems, no profits
Monday Jan 22nd, 2007 8:22 AM
Petroelum refineries are frequently located in lower income neighborhoods, usually predominantly people of color. The workers themselves are located nearby, the additional presence of underemployed people ensures no successful union organizing as scab labor can always be coerced into crossing the picket lines whenever oil workers decide to go on strike, thus nullifying any potential power of worker organizing..

Health risks from refinery pollution is disproportionately carried by the local community, lower income folks who end up there for various reasons. Sometimes the housing issue becomes a trap. Once the house is purchased, property values decrease over the years as the refinery's reputation effects real estate values. What people didn't know about decades ago is today becoming common knowledge, that residents living near refineries suffer disproportionately higher rates of cancer, leukemia, asthma, etc.. as a direct result of living near the refinery pollution..

A similar scenario is occurring in Beaumont, TX at the Exxon-Mobil refiney. Here Rev. Roy Malveaux speaks up for the residents and their health problems as a direct correlation between the refinery's distance form their homes..

"Within Texas, Mobil's emissions are 385% above the state's refinery average. Residents in the nearby neighborhoods have been complaining of headaches, nausea, eye and nose irritation, and other health problems for years. Research by neighbors brought additional problems to light; Rev. Malveaux said the neighbors were shocked to learn that "when there was threat of hurricane or bad weather that the refineries were in threat of losing petroleum which meant they have to dump all of their waste product in the storm drains." He summed up the attitude of many of the neighbors by saying, "Once we got to asking questions, we found out there was more information being hidden from us than there was being given to us."
"

read on @;
http://www.txpeer.org/toxictour/beaumont.html

The people living near the refinery are labeled living in a "sacrifice zone" and are entitled to compensation based upon their increased risks of cancer form refinery pollution, medical bills, etc.. Needless to say no amount of money will bring people back from the dead, but at least give residents a fighting chance with paying for theiredical treatments!!

"DT: What do you mean by the sacrifice or the sacrifice zone? Maybe you could talk about some of the health impacts or safety impacts.

RM: One that—I call it the sacrifice zones is because they get federal funds from—from many programs. One of them is Texas Enterprise Zone. Texas Enterprise Zone says those people who live in close proximity to petrochemical plants and industry should get the majority, 25% of the jobs, the benefits and all that. If that was so, that area would be the best-looking area of the city. Because you have sixteen refinery or chemical plants in that area. But that’s not being done. They’re sacrificed. They—they—they tell the federal Government, this is a bad area, this is a blighted area, we can’t sell the houses, the taxes are low because the property values are low. But they take the money and they go somewhere else, on the other side of town. And they won’t let these people out, because the EPA, in most cases, have money, through federal relief, that will allow demolition of all of these homes and relocation, $25,000 for every family. But they don’t want those families to leave, because without that they can’t lure the industry. And industry can’t get a tax abatement if there’s nobody living there. Their politician wouldn’t have no voting bloc if there’s nobody there. And so these people are sacrificed so somebody can have a good voting block. They’re sacrificed so that the city can make some tax. The tax on the houses stay up, but the value go down. And it never changes. And the refinery gets tax abatements. They don’t have to pay taxes for 10 years. And what is the incentive? There’s a neighborhood there that needs this kind of money. They—they use everything from Weed and Seed. The Weed and Seed Program says that there has to be a high crime level. This is also part of the—the—the Weed and Seed and the Texas Enterprise Zone. But, the people get nothing. They’re just a sacrifice. They’re—they’re the incentive to get all this, and they get nothing at all."

read on @;
http://www.texaslegacy.org/bb/transcripts/malveauxroytxt.html

Once again the people who suffer the greatest from the refineries presence are cut out of the billions of dollars reaped by Exxon-Mobil's CEO, his net worth is in the billions. Por que? All this greedy billionaire does is sit in a high rise and delegate chores to boards of lower execs who focus on advertising and fighting environmental regulations. Short term profit uber alles, eh Mr. CEO??

http://www.exxposeexxon.com/

Chevron-Texaco, Exxon-Mobil BP/Shell/Aramco and Conoco-Phillips are all playing the same with the health of residents and workers. Pollution control measures are skipped so that CEO profits continue to skyrocket along with cancer rates of refinery residents. The workers of the refinery and residents recieve very little for their sacrifice, though without them there would be no oil coming out of the ground to begin with. It would be great to witness a strike on the refinery, shut down the production until the environmental conditions are improved!!

start your own branch;
http://www.iww.org/unions/dept200/iu230

by matt
Thursday Jan 25th, 2007 9:08 AM
there are homes in Point richmond older than the refinery so it is not quite accurate to say nothing else was there. I live in a home older than the refinery.

by Paul
Wednesday Jul 18th, 2007 11:31 PM
The Mena and Fambrini households are a mile and a half from most of the refinery guts, hardly "directly across." In between is a large intermodal BNSF transportation yard that does a lot to stir up dust and diesel truck fumes that affect asthma. Residents need the whole picture and facts to take action about health. Seems some people just want to spin the situation for those on an anti-ChevronTexeco campaign in general. As for the workers, a report a few years ago said that only 5% of Chevron's Richmond employees actually lived anywhere within that city.