A “drop in the bucket,” most of the payouts covered medical exams and treatments at hospitals for those sickened by the smoke from the Richmond, CA refinery fire.
Chevron paid approximately $10 million to cover medical expenses and other claims in the wake of the fire at its Richmond refinery on Aug. 6. Most of those payouts went to local hospitals to cover medical exams and treatment received by residents sickened by toxin-filled smoke that spread for miles after the fire. At least 15,000 people sought medical treatment due to health issues related to the fire, and 23,900 claims had been filed as of last week to cover costs incurred due to the blaze.
Part of Chevron’s duty includes an inspection of the types of low-Silicon pipes that ruptured and leaked on Aug. 6, sparking an explosion and fire at the refinery’s crude oil unit. According to the latest report from Chevron, the part of the pipe that broke had low silicon content and was susceptible to thinning when exposed to high-temperature sulfidation. The corroded pipe segment that eventually broke was not “readily detected by existing corrosion monitoring locations,” the report reads.
Two additional lawsuits filed against Chevron by Bay Area civil rights attorney John Burris and Texas-based attorney Tony Buzbee are headed to state court. The suits charge Chevron of negligence in its handling of maintenance leading up to the fire and hold the accusation that the corporation could have avoided the fire if they had used better safety measures and had responded promptly after a leak was discovered. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board and the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health are conducting their own investigations into the refinery fire and are set to release new findings in the coming weeks.
Andres Soto, an organizer with environmental justice organization Communities for a Better Environment and a lifetime Richmond resident commented, “I think the (investigations) will show that the culture within the refinery on the part of Chevron management has been one to run the refinery to the point of failure, without even following their own guidelines about preventative maintenance and corrosion,” he said. Soto called the $10 million in payouts a “drop in the bucket compared to the profits Chevron makes on a quarterly basis.”
Founded in 1978, Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) is one of the preeminent environmental justice organizations in the nation. Learn more about the CBE’s victories, including stopping a giant power plant by visiting cbecal.org.