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Advocacy Group Asks State to Close Evergreen Oil

A letter was sent to the state Department of Toxic Substances Control demanding the indefinite closure of the Newark-based oil refinery.

A nonprofit consumer advocacy group called for the indefinite closure of in a letter released Monday that is addressed to the director of the state Department of Toxic Substances Control.

The demand came after a July 6 incident in which “superheated oil” leaked from one area of the refinery, prompting the evacuation of 70 employees, according to a press release from Consumer Watchdog, a California-based consumer advocacy group.

While Consumer Watchdog announced it was “appalled to learn of yet another accident” at the refinery, Evergreen Oil spokeswoman Deborah Mattos said the July 6 incident was handled appropriately and the refinery did not receive any odor complaints from the community after the leak.

At the time of the oil leak, a county hazardous materials team responded and determined the leak did not pose any health hazard, according to Alameda County Fire Department spokeswoman Aisha Knowles.

Evergreen Oil handles hazardous waste materials, including used motor oil, antifreeze and other toxic waste, according to the company's website.           

This month’s leak came four months after firefighters responded to the refinery plant after . No injuries were reported in that incident.

Last year, one employee was occurred at the refinery. That two-alarm fire prompted the closure of the plant's re-refinery area, which consists of two trains. That portion of the plant had been under repair since the March 2011 fire and one of those trains reopened in late October 2011.

Mattos emphasized Monday that Evergreen Oil has complied with city and fire requirements and regulations since the March 2011 fire.

Still, Consumer Watchdog notes in its press release that Evergreen Oil had been cited numerous times. In the letter to the state Department of Toxic Substances Control, it stated, “Your department has repeatedly cited Evergreen Oil for cracks and gaps in waste container storage and transfer areas, failing to track contaminated petroleum waste coming in and out of the facility, careless soil contamination, and omissions in its own inspection system.”

Consumer Watchdog advocate Liza Tucker added “We call on the DTSC to shut this refinery down indefinitely. Evergreen needs to know that sloppy safety procedures, and refusal to fix or replace shoddy infrastructure, is simply unacceptable.”

Mattos said the letter was unexpected because Evergreen has been working on making needed repairs.

During a meeting last Friday between Evergreen Oil and Newark city officials, city officials commended Evergreen’s plant manager Robert Gwantley for reporting the leak properly, said Mattos, who noted she attended the meeting.

“It’s disturbing that they would pick on this company. They do a very good job,” Mattos said. “I think we’re doing things appropriately and we’re meeting with fire and city officials on a regular basis. We’re adhering to all the procedures that need to be done, and we’re close to be up and running.”

City Manager John Becker said while he was not prepared to comment on the accusations made by Consumer Watchdog specifically, he said the “‘advocate’ that wrote the letter seems to utilize a certain level of hyperbole to try to make her point. She cites an unnamed ‘activist’ when commenting on Evergreen’s safety record.” (See the full letter in the PDF above.)

He also noted Evergreen Oil repaired the July 6 leak and has since restarted its operations.

Becker also noted the refinery is currently operating under a temporary permit, but Evergreen Oil’s staff has worked closely with Alameda County Fire Department and the city of Newark’s building department staff members in order to meet all requirements to obtain its operating permit.

Becker said Evergreen Oil has until August 19 to meet those requirements.

“From my perspective, any time there is any type of release or other safety incident, it is of great concern. My staff is working very diligently with Evergreen Oil to insure that all Building and Fire Code requirements are met,” Becker said.

Since its March 2011 fire, Evergreen has made steps to better communicate with the general public.

One newer feature is Evergreen’s Odor Complaint Hotline. For off-site odor complaints, residents can call 510-608-0180 or email communityoutreach@evergreenoil.com.

Evergreen has also established the , a group that will meet quarterly and act as a liason between Newark residents and the oil refinery.

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declectic July 17, 2012 at 11:51 PM
I say close the plant. Tammie and Allen I'd rather put people out of work and pay higher property taxes than be exposed to toxic substances that very well may harm many more people living nearby. I live nearby and I have reported foul odors. Evergreen and city and state authorities have done nothing but tell me to contact them when I smell the odor. Those with vested interests in Evergreen have told me that Evergreen is not responsible for the odor. Also, I smell the odor, usually early in the morning before 7:00 AM or on the weekend) when the Environmental Agency representative is unavailable. I just quit reporting the odor. I'm frustrated with Evergreen's promises to fix the problems and their outright denial of their responsibilities. I say again, close Evergreen permanently. No excuses.
Geoff Burton July 18, 2012 at 06:15 AM
What you are smelling is a natural result of bacteria in the wet land,Photosynthetic bacteria such as the purple sulfur bacteria found in salt marshes and mud flats can produce organic matter using sulfur and light and that smells,not Evergreen. The answer is actually a lot more involved wish I had more time.
Rob Sorensen July 18, 2012 at 10:36 PM
Just cuz some group files "a demand" doesn't compute to closing it down. I wonder the who, what agenda of the group filing such a demand. No details there yet Nika!!! How about it?
dan torres July 21, 2012 at 05:22 PM
I say give them a chance. That city manager says they are making positive progress. It's all about sustaining ourselves right? Well, Evergreen Oil is doing just that! They are one of the only ones in the west coast that are taking all of the toxic n refining back for our use. Now, 25 years is a long time. With just the recent accidents...can not compare to operating all the other 23 with no accidents. Just do your homework, go to the salt flats behind them and you will smell the odor for yourself coming from the salt flats plant! I have no ties either way! Guard Dog!
Nadja Adolf July 22, 2012 at 09:43 AM
The tidelands and wetlands really, really, really stink. Geoff Burton is absolutely correct on the awful stench caused by sulfur bacteria and other species. I can't understand how anyone can stand to live down near the sloughs. Driving down Peachtree during low tide one needs a nose clip.

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