Health alert lifted after flare at Shell Refinery

MARTINEZ (BCN) -- County health officials have lifted a health alert for the area around the Shell Refinery in Martinez.

The alert was issued at 2:30 p.m. and lifted at 4:53 p.m., said Contra Costa Health Services spokeswoman Victoria Balladares.

The alert was due to "excessive flaring and black smoke" coming from the refinery at 3485 Pacheco Blvd., and people with respiratory conditions were advised to avoid the area.

The flaring was the result of power going out at part of the refinery.

The power went out at about 1:30 p.m. and the flaring was "activated by design ... to combust excess gas at the refinery," said Shell spokeswoman Ann Notarangelo.

No injuries or medical calls have been reported as a result.

County emergency crews were not dispatched to the refinery but Shell is monitoring the air quality in the area and, based on the data collected so far, doesn't expect to see "any adverse impacts from this event," Notarangelo said.

"It's not something that we take lightly and it's not something that we want to do," Notarangelo said. "But it's (done) by design as a safety measure."

The power was restored to the refinery by just before 2 p.m.

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