“During COVID-19, Richmond residents have to deal with Chevron’s pollution on top of the pandemic,” said Miguel Diaz, a student at Richmond High School, during the virtual press conference. “What is the limit? Where do we draw the line and say enough is enough? When do we move past Chevron?”

Richmond Councilmember Eduardo Martinez agreed, noting the long list of health concerns faced by people in West Contra Costa County who have lived in the shadow of the refineries for decades, including high rates of asthma.

Sawyer, of Contra Costa County, said during the council meeting earlier in the month that the county investigators in the wake of the spill tested the air in the community for levels of toxic materials, but found nothing above a “background” level, and did not indicate any concerns about what they found.

But Martinez, in the press conference Tuesday, pointed out that people are concerned about the impact of pollution that has been weighing on them for so long.

Recent flaring incidents — the burning off of excess gases — have raised alarm. And according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency records, the refinery was slapped with almost 150 enforcement actions within the last five years.

“I realize government sets ‘acceptable’ levels of pollution, but there is no real acceptable level of pollution,” Martinez said. “It’s not as if we start each day with fresh lungs.”

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