Health Department Safety Advice on Gardening to Residents who Live Near Martinez Refinery
Tuesday, March 7, 2023
With spring and gardening season arriving, Contra Costa Health (CCH) is advising residents near the refinery in Martinez not to eat produce grown in soil that may have been exposed to "spent catalyst" with heavy metals until further environmental testing is completed.
"We are making this recommendation out of an abundance of caution," said Dr. Ori Tzvieli, health officer for Contra Costa County, who issued a health advisory on the matter today. "There is no immediate health threat to the community. That said, it’s also always better to be safe than sorry."
Dr. Tzvieli said refinery neighbors in Martinez and Pacheco can safely plant seeds now in their yards and gardens. However, he cautioned residents to wait for the results of environmental testing before eating anything grown in soils exposed to the spent catalyst. Testing results are expected in the late spring or early summer.
For those still concerned about gardening in potentially contaminated ground soil, Dr. Tzvieli said people can choose to safely grow produce in pots, planters or raised garden beds using fresh soil.
From about 9:30 p.m. Nov. 24, 2022, to the early hours of Nov. 25, the Martinez Refining Company (MRC) inadvertently showered surrounding neighborhoods with more than 20 tons of spent catalyst, a dust-like substance that CCH later determined to contain elevated levels of aluminum, barium, chromium, nickel, vanadium and zinc.
CCH has since referred the case to the District Attorney.
An 11-member oversight committee has been formed to oversee an independent investigation and risk assessment of the November incident. The committee will be holding its second meeting on March 9. (Here is the Zoom link for that virtual meeting.)
For more information on the independent investigation and risk assessment, visit cchealth.org/hazmat/mrc.
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