MARTINEZ, California

A complete power outage shut down Tesoro's Golden Eagle refinery near Martinez on Wednesday, sending large amounts of hazardous material to the refinery's flares and prompting health officials to issue a Level 3 shelter-in-place warning. Huge flames and a giant cloud of black smoke were visible for miles. The power outage occurred at about 4 p.m..

At about 4:30 p.m. the refinery, working with Contra Costa County health officials, issued a shelter-in-place warning for nearby communities. By about 7 p.m., the shelter-in-place order was reduced to a Level 1 indicating that there was some visible flaring but no off-site impact was expected. Power was restored to the refinery at 7:53 p.m..

The refinery's primary source of power comes from Foster Wheeler, an engineering and construction contractor and power equipment supplier, according to Randy Sawyer, director of the Contra Costa Hazardous Materials program. PG&E ordinarily supplies backup power to the refinery. Although the cause of the failure is still under investigation, it appears that PG&E experienced a power outage, which somehow tripped the Foster Wheeler co-generator, causing it to fail as well.

The Golden Eagle refinery is the second-largest oil refinery in Northern California and has a crude oil capacity of 166,000 barrels per day. The plant produces gasoline, diesel, heavy fuel oils, liquefied petroleum gas and petroleum coke.

One member of the county's hazardous materials team detected a slight odor, but it appeared that the majority of the smoke and pollution was rising into the atmosphere and dissipating. Sawyer said that pollution most likely came down outside the immediate area.

Tesoro Corp. says it is under investigation by the Environment Protection Agency's criminal division for the April 2 explosion and fire that killed seven people at the oil company's Anacortes, Wash., refinery.

Toxic chemical releases into the community can have serious consequences. If you have been seriously injured due to someone else's negligence, contact the personal injury attorneys at the law offices of O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley today. We provide free consultations in order to evaluate your case and discuss the legal options available to you.

(Source:  ABC News )

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