Thousands file claims after Chevron refinery fire

Aug 11, 2012, 8:40 AM

Associated Press

RICHMOND, Calif. (AP) – Several thousand Richmond residents have filed legal claims against Chevron Corp., seeking compensation for a refinery fire that fouled the region’s air for hours and sent more than 4,000 people to seek medical care for breathing problems and irritated eyes.

Hundreds of residents showed up at a makeshift claim center in Richmond on Friday, and many more submitted claims throughout the week by calling a special hotline Chevron established after Monday’s explosion and fire. The company said a total of about 3,800 people had submitted claims through Friday afternoon.

Most of the claims appear to be asking for modest amounts, reflecting the fact that there have been no reports of serious injury and nearly all seeking medical care were treated and released after a few hours in the hospital.

“It’s not about the money,” said Chanel Harris, who was seeking reimbursement for the cost of taking her three young children to the emergency room of the nearby Kaiser Hospital. “It’s about holding Chevron accountable.”

Harris spent about an hour in line and another 10 minutes talking to a claims adjuster inside the Nevin Community Center in Richmond. She said she won’t know how much she’s seeking until Kaiser sends a bill.

Harris and others with medical insurance who sought care immediately after the incident are expecting reimbursements for their deductibles, drugs and other expenses.

Monica Morales, 26, waited for about two hours with her three children ages 6 weeks to 7 years old to file her claim. She’s seeking about $500.

Others were told by a Chevron representative to expect even less, perhaps as little as $25 for a Kaiser copay.

“We are going to pay all appropriate and reasonable expenses,” Chevron spokesman Sean Comey said.

Others, like Percy Gallon who showed up without receipts and other proof of expenses, were told they faced an uphill battle to receive anything.

“It’s disappointing,” said Gallon, a 61-year-old Richmond resident who said he lived out of the area when others received payments of about $1,000 each after a fire at the refinery in the 1990s. “I want in on this one.”

The Chevron center in this gritty, blue-collar town about 15 miles northeast of San Francisco will remain open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. until noon Saturday. Handling claims face-to-face is a new approach for Chevron, which has had dozens of accidents small and big in the more than 100 years its refinery has been located in Richmond.

“It’s all part of our attempts at community outreach,” said Chevron spokeswoman Melissa Ritchie. She added the company typically processed claims on the phone after previous accidents.

Richmond lawyer Nick Haney, who had long lines outside his office earlier in the week, said he expects to represent about 3,000 residents with legal claims. Haney said he hopes to negotiate a settlement with the company before filing lawsuits.

Mike Meadows, a Walnut Creek lawyer who has helped settle lawsuits for tens of millions of dollars against Chevron and other refineries because of previous mishaps, said he isn’t participating in this incident because of the expected low payouts.

“The liability is pretty clear,” Meadows said. “And I’m sure the victims showed up to the doctors with legitimate complaints.” But he said most of the health problems caused by the fire likely were minor irritants rather than significant injuries.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District said it was still investigating the fire’s effects on the region’s air quality.

“While air samples taken near the facility detected normal background levels of toxic air contaminants, there was the potential for significant smoke in the area that impacted residents in the downwind neighborhoods,” the district said in a statement Thursday. “The likely source of health impacts from the fire is particulate matter from smoke.”

The district said it found one dangerous chemical, acrolein, above safe levels in the air, although safe levels of the chemical often are exceeded in the Bay Area. Acrolein can cause runny noses and irritate eyes.

In all, five separate investigations will be done to determine the cause and effects of the Richmond refinery fire.

The same U.S. Chemical Safety Board team that investigated the oil spill in the Gulf Of Mexico, for one, was standing by with state and company inspectors waiting for structural and environmental tests to see if it was safe to enter the unit.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

FILE - Wild horses that were captured from U.S. rangeland stand in a holding pen, at the U.S. Burea...
Associated Press

Biggest US holding pen planned for wild horses faces suit

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Advocates for wild horses are accusing federal land managers of illegally approving plans for the largest U.S. holding facility for thousands of mustangs captured on public rangeland in 10 Western states. Friends of Animals said in a lawsuit filed Tuesday up to 4,000 horses would be held captive inhumanely for months […]
19 hours ago
Former Vice President Mike Pence gestures during the "Politics and Eggs" breakfast gathering, Wedne...
Associated Press

Pence tells GOP to stop lashing out at FBI over Trump search

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — Former Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday implored fellow Republicans to stop lashing out at the FBI over the search of Donald Trump’s Florida home and denounced calls by some of the former president’s allies to defund the FBI, saying that was “just as wrong” as a push by Democratic activists […]
19 hours ago
Associated Press

Police: Man who broke into Wisconsin home wanted a bath

CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (AP) — A Minnesota man who allegedly broke into an occupied Wisconsin home last week and locked himself in a bathroom never had a chance to come clean. He was getting ready to take a bath when authorities arrived. Authorities say the 29-year-old St. Paul, Minnesota man was filling up the tub […]
19 hours ago
FILE - A dead fish that used to be underwater sits on cracked earth above the water level on Lake M...
Associated Press

How new Colorado River cuts will impact Arizona, residents

Arizona and Nevada residents won't face bans on watering their lawns or washing their cars despite more Colorado River water shortages.
19 hours ago
FILE - Allen Weisselberg, right, stands behind then President-elect Donald Trump during a news conf...
Associated Press

Trump Org. CFO to plead guilty, testify against company

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s chief financial officer is expected to plead guilty to tax violations Thursday in a deal that would require him to testify about illicit business practices at the former president’s company, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. Allen Weisselberg is charged with taking more than $1.7 […]
19 hours ago
FILE - This Aug. 8, 2022, still image taken from officer video provided by the Albuquerque Police D...
Associated Press

Suspect in New Mexico Muslim killings detained pending trial

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An Afghan refugee charged in the shooting deaths of two Muslim men and suspected in the killing of two others was ordered held without bond pending trial as prosecutors argued Wednesday that he was a danger to his own family and the greater community. Prosecutors during a detention hearing pointed to […]
19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
...
Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
...
CANVAS ANNUITY

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
Thousands file claims after Chevron refinery fire