Chevron estimates up to 750 gallons of mixture spilled into the Bay

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife said Wednesday that the impact from Tuesday's petroleum product leak at the Chevron refinery long wharf in Richmond appears to be centered near the city's Keller Beach, but no oiled wildlife or public health impacts have been found.

In an update Wednesday evening, Chevron said as much as 750 gallons of the product were leaked. 

"Lab analysis and technical review determined that approximately 12-18 barrels (500-750 gallons) of a low-sulfur diesel fuel and flush water mix was released," the company said in their updated statement

Initial estimates said that 600 gallons went into the Bay between 2:40 p.m. Tuesday and about two hours later when the leak was stopped, according to Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia. Petroleum leaked from a quarter-inch hole in an unpressurized wharf pipeline.

For its part, Chevron has not yet disclosed the size of the hole, nor the exact duration of the spill. Much of this information is already in the company's possession. 

"We're getting very close on an estimate and we'll release that as soon as we can," said Chevron refinery executive Lynsi Crain just before the evening update. 

"It seems like the initial response did not contain all of the oil and so, the oil was allowed to spread," said environmentalist Sajel Choksi-Chugh, San Francisco Baykeeper's executive director.

Richmond Mayor Tom Butt joined a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter crew that flew over the area around 7 a.m. Wednesday and found sheening from Point Molate to Brooks Island, and response teams have gone to shorelines in the area to do further assessments, state fish and wildlife officials said. 

"A patchy sheen from Point Molate to Brooks Island was observed during the overflight," according to the spill Unified Command that includes Chevron, the state wildlife agency's Office of Spill Prevention and Response, Contra Costa Health Services and the U.S. Coast Guard. 

Public access to the water along Western Drive and at Keller Beach are closed during the response to the spill.

"Right now, the focus is on containment and also on clean up. So we have teams who are on shore and in boats," said Eric Laughlin of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Chevron refinery officials said in a statement Tuesday that refinery workers had noticed a sheen on the water at about 3 p.m. Tuesday and Chevron "immediately initiated its response protocol, began working to isolate and contain the release, and notified all applicable agencies."

A public health order issued by Contra Costa Health Services following the leak was rescinded at 9 p.m.

"A total of 3,500 feet of boom was deployed in the Richmond Eel Grass Beds north of the incident and 2,500 feet at Brooks Island south of the incident," the company said. Additional boom is in place in sensitive areas as a proactive measure, Chevron's statement read. 

Without expressing an apology, a Chevron Facebook post, just before 8 a.m. Wednesday said, "The line in question is used to transport a variety of oil and products that are returned to the refinery for reprocessing."

"The refinery needs to be held accountable for properly maintaining their pipelines which they don't seem to have done in this case," said SF Baykeeper's Choksi-Chugh.

Cole Burchiel, a field investigator with SF Baykeeper said he was at Point Richmond Tuesday afternoon soon after the oil spill was detected. He documented the spill with drone video footage of the impacted areas. 

"The amount of sheen that we were seeing on the water covered the entirety of Keller Beach and most of the cove. There was a substantial amount of oil. It was pretty astounding," Burchiel said. 

He said heavy fuel such as diesel will make the clean up more difficult.

"There are seabirds, flora and fauna that rely on clean water. As soon as you contaminate that, that will have major effects on the eco-system that you can't really predict," Burchiel said.  

The fish and wildlife department activated what's called the Oil Wildlife Care Network, which responds to oil spills. They were on boats looking for impacted wildlife.

Scientists walked the shoreline to assess impact.

"We have to hold these companies accountable when these things happened. It is unacceptable," said California Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, whose district includes Richmond.

She plans to introduce a bill to increase fines for oil spills, "To make sure we have deterrents that actually work so companies will have an incentive not to commit this type of behavior," Wicks said. 

"There are countless ways a spill can affect the environment. Just because you're not seeing the very dramatic images that you're used to seeing like the Gulf of Mexico, doesn't mean the Bay isn't impacted," said Burchiel. He also said it's pure luck that this spill did not have a catastrophic outcome.

People who spot potentially oiled wildlife are asked to report them at (877) UCD-OWCN. 

KTVU's Tom Vacar and Amber Lee contributed to this report.