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Level 1 Alert lasting longer than 20 minutes or with odors
Notification Only - Flaring incident at Phillips 66 Rodeo that may be seen by the surrounding community.
December 4, 2023, 5:04 pm

Frequently Asked Questions

Accidental Releases & Emissions
Emergency Notification
Public Information
  • What is the purpose of the Industrial Safety Ordinance?

    Prevent accidental release of hazardous chemicals; improve accident prevention by soliciting participation from industry and the community; require industry to submit a Safety Plan; and conduct audits of the plans and inspections of the industrial plants.

    I have never heard of the Industrial Safety Ordinance. Is it a new law?

    Based on concerns expressed by the community, the Board of Supervisors implemented this Industrial Safety Ordinance in December 1998. The City of Richmond passed the Industrial Safety Ordinance in December 2000.

    How many companies are under the Industrial Safety Ordinance (ISO)?

    There are six companies covered by the County and two covered by the City of Richmond.

    What industrial sites are included in ISO?

    The six industrial sites covered by the County's Industrial Safety Ordinance are Phillips 66 Rodeo Refinery, PBF Energy – Martinez Refining Company (MRC) [formerly Shell Oil Martinez Refinery], Air Products at MRC, Marathon Golden Eagle Refinery east of Martinez, Air Products at Marathon and Air Liquide-Rodeo Hydrogen Plant. The two industrial sites covered by the City of Richmond Industrial Safety Ordinance are Chevron Richmond Refinery and Chemtrade West Richmond Works.

    What causes a company to be included in the ISO?

    The County's ISO includes unincorporated parts of the County and must be a petroleum refinery or a chemical facility. The City of Richmond's ISO requires that the company must be in the City of Richmond and must be a petroleum refinery or chemical facility.

    Are there chemical facilities or petroleum refineries in the County that use or manufacture extremely hazardous chemicals that are not covered by the ISO?

    Yes, ISO only applies to the facilities that are in the unincorporated areas of the County or in the City of Richmond. The facilities also have to have listed chemicals above a listed quantity in a process and under a worst-case situation impact the public. Some of the companies that are within the unincorporated areas of the county which did not have sufficient quantity of a listed chemical in a process include Matheson Tri-Gas, Inc. and MECS. Eco Services and Shell Chemical are within the city limits of Martinez. HASA and Corteva (formerly Dow Chemical) are in the city limits of Pittsburg. Shell Catalyst (formerly Criterion Catalyst), even under a worst-case situation, is predicted to not impact the public.

    Are gases the only hazardous material included in the ISO?

    No, hazardous material can also be in the form of solids or liquids.

    Are tank trucks we see driving on the freeway and railroad tank cars covered by the ISO?

    No, only the eight facilities mentioned above are included in the ISO. Material in transit is under the authority of the Department of Transportation.

    What kinds of chemicals are covered by ISO?

    If the industrial site is covered by the ISO all of the process units and hazardous chemicals handled within the units are covered by the ISO.

    Where can I read the Safety Plans required by ISO?

    1. Public library branches in Richmond, Crockett, Rodeo, Bay Point & Martinez contain the Safety Plans for the facilities nearest them;
    2. Call the offices at the eight industrial plants;
    3. County offices at 4585 Pacheco Blvd, Ste. 100 Martinez, CA 94553. (Call 925-655-3200 first for an appointment).
  • What should I do if I smell odor from a chemical plant or refinery?

    If odor is present, call Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) at 800-334-6367 or Contra Costa Health Services at 925-655-3200. If it is a chemical emergency or hazardous material emergency call 9-1-1. If you are calling after the event to obtain historical information, call 925-655-3200. If you are not satisfied with the response provided, call Michael Kent the County Hazardous Materials Ombudsman at 877-662-8376 or 925-313-6587.

    Have there been any known releases?

    Yes, there have been releases that have impacted the surrounding community.

    I heard the siren from an incident that occurred. How can I find out what happened?

    For historical information on what chemical was released, the extent of the release, the cause of a release or other historical information, call Matt Kaufmann, the Hazardous Materials Program Director at 925-655-3200.

    What if there is a very high concentration of extremely hazardous chemicals released into the community whereby the concentration inside a closed house becomes harmful?

    The emergency response agencies will determine when it may not be prudent to continue to Shelter-in-Place. At this point, instructions will be given through television and radio, as well as by telephone, that an evacuation will occur, where to go, and the best route to take.

    Some of our homes in the neighborhood are old and I have a concern about the protection provided. Does anyone evaluate old facilities for leakage?

    Even though the residence may not be airtight, it is providing more protection than if you were outdoors. For very low income homeowners or for tenants, the County offers a weatherization program that will not only reduce your utility bills, it will also make your house more air tight, and thereby reduce the risk of a chemical release affecting the inhabitants. Betty Powell of the County can be contacted at 925-655-1116. In addition to the County program, PG&E has an Energy Partners program, which is free for low income persons, and they can be contacted at 800-933-9555.

    Has the amount of air pollution from industrial sources been reduced over time?

    Yes, in the 1970's Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) reduced sulfur dioxide permit limits at refineries from approximately 6,000 PPM down to under 200 PPM. Nitric oxide emissions were also significantly reduced. In the 1980's, BAAQMD set limits on non-traditional industries such as bakeries and dry cleaners. Vapor recovery systems were required on gasoline storage tanks in the 1990's. The BAAQMD has enacted many other control measures to reduce pollution.

    There has been a concern that refineries are flaring gases continuously instead of just during emergencies. What are you doing to reduce emissions?

    The BAAQMD has taken the lead on reducing emissions that come from flares. They have adopted a Flare Minimization at Petroleum Refineries (Regulation 12, Rule 12) which required submittal of flare minimization plans from each refinery including flare monitoring and annual update.

  • At what point is the County Health Services Hazardous Materials Response Team and Fire Department called to provide assistance?

    Different levels of response are implemented by the County. When a plant assesses a problem to be a Level 3 incident, they are advising that there is expected be off-site consequences. If such is the case, then the following events occur:

    1. sirens surrounding the facility are sounded;
    2. emergency response teams including the Health Services Hazardous Materials Response Team and Fire Department are contacted;
    3. media are notified;
    4. an announcement is made on NOAA weather radios;
    5. the Telephone Emergency Notification System (TENS) phone calls are made to downwind Homes and businesses advising them to Shelter-in-place.
    6. E-mail notifications are made to that have signed up for this service.

    If industry is reluctant to call in the County Hazardous Materials Response Team, can someone mandate the County's emergency services intervene?

    Once the County is aware of a problem, they can take control and mandate action.

    Will the TENS call me if I have an unlisted phone number?

    A law was passed in Sacramento at the request of the County's Emergency Services to provide listed and unlisted numbers to be used for the TENS database. The 9-1-1 database was used. Everyone is on the 9-1-1 database, whether they are unlisted or not. There are 750,000 phones in the County's 9-1-1 database. However, cell phones and mobile phones are not on that list, just fixed phones in residential or commercial areas.

    Why is it that the siren can barely be heard indoors?

    The sirens were designed to alert the people that are outside. The TENS, the media, Emergency Alert System, Internet notifications, and NOAA Weather Radios are designed to alert and notify the people that are inside.

    When the Community Warning System siren sounds, how will I know when it's safe to go outside?

    When you hear the siren, you should Shelter-In-Place. Close doors and windows and shut off air conditioning/heating. There is no "all clear" siren. TENS will notify residents via phone call when it is safe. In addition, announcements will be made on the radio and television.

    Does the County siren sound continuously until the all clear?

    The County will continue to resound the sirens, approximately every thirty minutes, where people should continue to Shelter-In-Place.

    Will the TENS phone call come at any hour of the day, perhaps while I'm asleep during the middle of the night?

    It will call anytime there is a release where it is expected the community would have a health impact and if you are downwind of the release.

    If evacuation is necessary, does the County send anyone to assist in evacuating residents?

    Evacuation notification and actions would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. If evacuation is determined to be the best action to take, people who will be asked to evacuate will be notified by the TENS and by radio and television.

    Will sirens and the TENS phone call be activated for railroad tank car or highway tank truck spills when hazardous chemicals are involved? If terrorists cause a gas release, will TENS or a siren occur? Will the sirens only sound for release of chemicals from ISO covered facilities?

    The Community Warning System will be used for chemical releases from any source, including railroad tank cars, tank trucks on freeways, all industrial facilities, including the facilities not included in ISO.

    How many phone calls per hour are TENS capable of?

    The TENS system can make approximately 500 calls simultaneously.

    Will the police scanner pick up a chemical release alert broadcast?

    Only if the dispatcher relays the alert over the police frequency.

    Can a siren be placed closer to our neighborhood?

    Currently, there are only 40 sirens from Richmond to Antioch downwind of industrial facilities. The system is being used for all risk system (e.g. flood, fire) in which case it may result in additional sirens. Perhaps you may want to further discuss these plans with your Mayor or Supervisor.

    Who has control of the siren?

    The Community Warning System, including the sirens, is controlled by the Office of the Sheriff. Some plants such as Chevron, Philips 66, PBF Energy - Martinez Refining Company, Marathon, ECO Services, and Corteva (formerly Dow Chemical) can activate the sirens closest to them if they are confident that the release will affect the community (Level 3). However, the County's Hazardous Materials department has the ultimate authority on assessing the level of the release and activating any sirens.

  • If a resident wants to advise the County of their concerns in Spanish, whom should they call?

    They can call 925-313-6817 to reach an interpreter for Michael Kent, the County Hazardous Materials Ombudsman.

    Is information on the Community Warning System and how to Shelter-in-Place available in Spanish?

    Yes. It can be obtained from CAER at 888-972-2237 or by calling the number given above.

    Is it possible for a presentation to be made where I work?

    Free presentations on this topic are available upon request. If interested, contact Maria Duazo at 925-655-3200 or send an email to

    What is the environmental record of accomplishment of a refinery or chemical plant?

    It is public record and can be reviewed at the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) Region 2, 1515 Clay Street, Suite 1400, Oakland, CA 94612 510-622-2300. Similarly, Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), 939 Ellis Street, San Francisco 800-334-6367 can be contacted for air permit violation history.

    Does every school have a NOAA radio?

    No, only schools in the industrial corridor. Community Alert and Emergency Response (CAER) gave out 750 free radios to schools, hospitals, day care, and elder care facilities in the communities from Richmond to Oakley.

    What is the frequency of testing the emergency notification sirens? What literature is available to notify the neighborhood of the sirens?

    The sirens are tested monthly for ninety seconds on the first Wednesday of each month at 11 a.m. The sirens are also checked the other Wednesdays of the month where you may hear them for approximately fifteen seconds. Further information can be obtained from Contra Costa Health Services Hazardous Materials Program Director, Matt Kaufmann at 925-655-3200.

    Is terrorism an issue?

    Yes, since 9-11, industrial facilities have increased security at their plants. The California Accidental Release Prevention Program requires facilities to perform a security and vulnerability analysis and make the appropriate modifications to improve the overall security of the plant. In addition, the Coast Guard has been cognizant of water-borne terrorist activities and has worked with facilities to improve water-borne security.

  • Why aren't Henkel, Shell Catalyst (formerly Criterion Catalyst), and Acme Steel under the jurisdiction of the Industrial Safety Ordinance (ISO)? Is the Central Sanitary District part of the Industrial Safety Ordinance (ISO)?

    The County's ISO only covers unincorporated areas of the County and the Richmond ISO covers the City of Richmond; petroleum refineries and chemical companies; and companies that make or use above-threshold quantities of specifically listed extremely hazardous chemicals.

    Does Benicia have an Industrial Safety Ordinance?

    Valero, the former Exxon Refinery is located in Benicia. Valero is not subject to the ISO since they are located in Solano County not Contra Costa County. Valero is however required to submit a Risk Management Plan under the California Accidental Release Program (CalARP). The ISO presentations given have focused on companies that fall under the jurisdiction of the Contra Costa County ISO. Information about Valero can best be obtained by contacting them directly at 707-745-7011.

    Campora Propane has over 400,000 gallons of liquefied petroleum gas containing methyl mercaptans. They are within 1,000 feet of a mobile home park and residences. Why are they not regulated by the County Industrial Safety Ordinance?

    The ISO presentation discussed companies submitting Safety Plans and Risk Management Plans (RMP). Companies that only sell, not make, flammables for fuel are exempt from the requirement to submit an RMP. Safety plans only need to be submitted by manufacturers such as chemical plants and petroleum refineries.

    Since the ISO is a land use ordinance, how are Risk Management Plans (RMP) and Safety Plans related to land use?

    The Industrial Safety Ordinance has two separate chapters. One chapter pertains to land use. The chapter that we are discussing with these questions and answers deal with the Risk Management Chapter, which does not pertain to land use requirements.

    Has the County inspected the Concord Weapons Station?

    The Concord Weapons Station is not regulated under the ISO.

    Is there duplication and overlap between the requirements of the ISO and the California Accidental Release Prevention (CalARP) Program?

    The ISO expands the CalARP program. CalARP only applies to regulated chemicals stored in quantities above threshold amounts. ISO applies the same CalARP standards to every unit on the site.

    Why aren't incorporated cities requiring chemical plants and refineries to adhere to the ISO?

    The City of Richmond adopted their version of the ISO in December 2000.

    How does the County apportion their attention to small chemical plants versus large refineries?

    The County is required to conduct an audit of all facilities under the jurisdiction of the ISO every three (3) years. The County might send a 2-person crew to audit a small site that might last 2-3 weeks. A large site may require an inspection team of 4 people and might last 3-4 weeks.

    How is the public safety covered by the ISO in the transportation of chemicals in railroad tank cars and tank trucks on the freeways?

    This is not in the jurisdiction of the County ISO. It is the responsibility of the Department of Transportation (DOT). Training operators in the proper loading and unloading of railroad tank cars and tank trucks is part of the ISO.

    Should all maintenance staff have apprentice training?

    The Industrial Safety Ordinance requires that the maintenance personnel are trained on how to perform their jobs for the appropriate skills and safety requirements.

    Has there been any thought to making vessels double walled to reduce the likelihood of leakage?

    The Industrial Safety Ordinance requires that the facilities maintain their equipment, including an inspection program. When there is an excess corrosion the facilities are required to replace these vessels. There are situations where double walled vessels are used, but mostly the facilities are required to ensure that the vessels are designed with the right materials of construction and the appropriate thickness.

    The County reviews some of the Process Hazard Analysis (PHA) recommendations of the plants to ensure that industrial facilities implement them. Who determines which PHA recommendations are reviewed?

    Contra Costa Health Services audits the facilities to ensure that they are following the requirements of the Industrial Safety Ordinance. The Process Hazard Analysis is an important element of the accident prevention program. We determine if the team who performs the PHA has the right expertise, experience, and the appropriate makeup. The PHA team is required to include someone who is knowledgeable in the PHA method that is being used, an operator from the unit that is being analyzed, the appropriate engineers, and other personnel with specific specialties as needed. Contra Costa Health Services personnel will then randomly select different PHA's to review to ensure that they are complete with the appropriate documentation. The number of PHA's reviewed is based on how many different processes there are at a facility and can range from 5% to 100% of the PHA's for a facility.