An investigation is underway for a leak that was spilling five gallons of petroleum product a minute into the San Francisco Bay Tuesday afternoon at the Chevron refinery long wharf in Richmond.
The spill, which totaled an estimated 600 gallons, came from a leak in an underground pipe, and officials are trying to figure out what happened.
“I smelled the smell coming in, and I thought it was Chevron or the wharf,” said Sue Donnett of Richmond. “Then I heard all the helicopters.”
Helicopters were working to pinpoint a sheen that was spotted in the Bay just before 2:40 p.m.
“It took a while for Chevron to discover it and a bit more time before it was reported to the county. Sometime close to 3:30 p.m. is when the county received notification,” said Supervisor John Gioia.
Fire crews, the coast guard, along with hazmat teams worked to contain the leak. The pipeline is considered an underground highway for products to get from tankers to the refinery.
“This pipe carries petroleum products from the shore line to the tanker, and the leak occurred in the line, and it is yet to be determined where, what caused it, all of that,” said Gioia, who adds he was told the line was not under pressure during the leak and it is yet to be determined how much petroleum leaked into the Bay.
“Ultimately, this is unacceptable. We live in an urban environment. We expect it to operate safely, not have spills into the bay, not have air releases,” said Gioia.
A Level 2 health advisory that lasted two hours was issued shortly before 4 p.m. for Richmond, San Pablo and unincorporated North Richmond.
Contra Costa County health officials continue monitoring air quality, but as of Tuesday night, believe there is no health threat.
As a precaution, if residents have any respiratory issues, especially now during COVID-19, they are asked to stay inside.