MARTINEZ, Calif. - The Federal Bureau of Investigations is teaming up with the Environmental Protection Agency to investigate dust and ash found covering neighborhoods in Martinez last year after large amounts of the particles were found near the Martinez Refining Company.
Experts called the dust "spent catalyst" and claim it's part of the oil refining process. The refinery released more than 20 tons of the metal-laden dust into the community over last year’s Thanksgiving weekend starting around 9:30 p.m. Nov. 24 and continuing into the early hours of Nov. 25.
"The FBI, working with our federal partners at the Environmental Protection Agency, are speaking with members of the community in Martinez, who could have been affected by the release of potentially hazardous materials at the Martinez Refining Company which occurred in November 2022," the FBI said in a statement. "As this investigation is ongoing, we will not be making further comment at this time."
Health officials have been testing the particles for months and the Contra Costa County Public Health Services director said it could take until early summer to find out what kind of health risk, if any, it poses.
The investigation comes after Contra Costa County health officials advised residents not to consume any produce grown in soil that may have been exposed to the particles.
"We are making this recommendation out of an abundance of caution," said Dr. Ori Tzvieli, health officer for Contra Costa County, back in March.
Samples of the dust contain elevated levels of aluminum, barium, chromium, nickel, vanadium, and zinc, all of which could have caused respiratory problems in people breathing it. Martinez residents reported seeing the particles scattered on nearly every outdoor surface.
"It was on my car, it was on my house, in my boat, and in my gazebo. Everywhere," Martinez resident Craig Crume told KTVU back in November 2022.
Another resident said it reminded him of ash from a wildfire blanketing everything in sight.
"It was some hard, gritty, fine material," said Martinez resident Chris Rodriguez.
Freddy Brewster is a reporter for KTVU.
Email Freddy at email@example.com or call him at 513-379-7522.
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