Last Thanksgiving, the Martinez, CA oil refinery released somewhere between 20 and 24 tons of spent catalyst, a byproduct of the oil refining process. That spent catalyst wafted over Martinez neighborhoods and settled on cars, houses, and gardens. It contained toxic heavy metals, including vanadium, aluminum, barium, chromium, nickel, and zinc. When local residents woke up the next morning, they were puzzled by the ash. They didn’t know what it was. That’s because Martinez Refining didn’t alert authorities to the event, as required by law. It would be several days before Contra Costa County pieced together what happened and issued a press release, and still longer before it issued a health advisory regarding produce grown in local gardens.
Residents are demanding action, including Martinez Refining Company-funded remediation, improved air quality monitoring, and the installation of better air pollution control devices at the refinery. Sunflower Alliance member Charles Davidson and Martinez resident Heidi Taylor join Terra Verde host and Earth Island Journal Managing Editor Zoe Loftus-Farren to discuss their campaign.