Current Issues

Industrial Safety in Contra Costa County


Contra Costa County is home to active oil refineries, chemical plants, and numerous heavy and light industrial businesses. Based on safety concerns after some serious incidents, the Board of Supervisors adopted a landmark Industrial Safety Ordinance (ISO) in January 1999, requiring regulated facilities in the County to implement safety programs aimed to prevent chemical accidents that could impact the surrounding communities. The requirements of the Industrial Safety Ordinance are some of the most stringent in the United States, if not the world. The City of Richmond passed an identical ordinance in 2000. 

The purpose of the Industrial Safety Ordinance is to prevent the accidental release of hazardous chemicals; improve accident prevention through 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. 

Contra Costa Hazardous Materials Programs (CCHMP), a division of the County Health Department, administers the ordinance. A regular performance review and evaluation report is submitted to the Board of Supervisors. The 2017 Industrial Safety Ordinance Annual Report was presented by the March 7th Board of Supervisors meeting. It can be found on the County's website at www.cchealth.org/hazmat/.

There are six businesses covered by the County’s Industrial Safety Ordinance and two covered by the City of Richmond’s ordinance. The six industrial sites covered by the County’s ordinance are Phillips 66 Rodeo Refinery, Shell Oil Martinez Refinery, Air Products at Shell, Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery east of Martinez, Air Products at Tesoro and Air Liquide-Rodeo Hydrogen Plant. The two industrial sites covered by the City of Richmond’s ordinance are Chevron Richmond Refinery and Chemtrade West Richmond Works.

Audits of the regulated businesses are required at least once every three years to ensure that the facilities have the required programs in place and are implementing the programs. Five County ISO and two Richmond ISO audits were completed this reporting period:

• Chemtrade Richmond Works—September 2014
• Air Products Shell—April 2015
• Air Products at Tesoro—April 2015
• Shell Oil Products Martinez—May 2015
• Air Liquide Large Industries—March 2016
• Chevron Richmond Refinery—July 2016
• Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery—October 2016

There are three other programs in place to reduce the potential of an accidental release from a regulated stationary source that could impact the surrounding community. The programs are: the Process Safety Management Program administered by Cal/OSHA, the Federal Accidental Release Prevention Program administered by the U.S. EPA, and the California Accidental Release Prevention Program administered locally by CCHMP.  The Industrial Safety Ordinance is also administered by CCHMP. Each of the programs is very similar in requirements, with the Industrial Safety Ordinance being the most stringent. 

The Board of Supervisors approved an amendment to the Industrial Safety Ordinance in June 2014, broadening the goals and requirements of the regulation following the 2012 Chevron Refinery fire investigation report.

The ISO requires the regulated stationary sources to do an incident investigation with a root cause analysis for each of the major chemical accidents or releases that meets the definition of a Level 3 or Level 2 incident in the Community Warning System incident level classification system, based on meeting one or more of the following criteria:

• Results in one or more fatalities
• Results in greater than 24 hours of hospital treatment of three or more persons
• Causes property damage (including cleanup and restoration activities) initially estimated at $500,000 or more. 
• Results in a vapor cloud of flammables and/or combustibles that is more than 5,000 pounds

Over a 17-year period, there has been a trend towards fewer and less severe Major Chemical Accidents or Releases incidents in the County since the adoption of the Ordinance. There were several Community Warning System Level II and Level III incidents in 2012 that caused some concern. There was one Major Chemical Accident or Release for the County Industrial Safety Ordinance facilities in 2015 and one Major Chemical Accident or Release at a non-ISO facility in 2015. These incidents serve as a reminder of the need to stay vigilant in ensuring safe facility operations. There were no major incidents in Contra Costa County in 2016.

Staff continues to work with other agencies such as the EPA, Cal/OHSA, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, and the Bay Area Quality Management District, along with other local program agencies, for sharing of incident results, regulatory interpretations, and inspection results to improve effectiveness and prevention.



Contra Costa County’s System for Helping the Homeless

Contra Costa County provides the "safety net" for those in need in our community. The Contra Costa Homeless Continuum of Care (CoC) is currently designing and implementing a Coordinated Entry System (CES) to ensure that homeless individuals, and those at-risk of homelessness, receive the most appropriate services to meet their housing needs.

The Coordinated Entry System is a collaboration of multiple community, government, and faith-based agencies that collectively provide services ranging from prevention to permanent housing placements. Homeless individuals are linked to the support needed to obtain and sustain housing. They move into the system by calling 211, going to one of our Coordinated Assessment and Resource (CARE) Centers, or through our Coordinated Outreach Referral and Engagement (CORE) teams.

The 211 information line, operated by the Contra Costa Crisis Center, provides a phone portal for individuals and families needing to connect to homeless services. Callers will be connected to CORE Team and CARE Centers. 211 is in the process of implementing Prevention and Diversion Screening and Referral services, and in September will begin a centralized reservation system for direct placement into emergency shelters.

Our CORE outreach teams have begun to engage and stabilize homeless individuals living outside and are helping to facilitate and deliver health and basic needs services, and locate permanent housing. Evening CORE teams can provide direct placement into shelter beds.

CARE Centers located in Richmond, Concord, and Walnut Creek provide a walk-in option for individuals and families who need to connect to homeless services. Services offered at CARE centers include help with basic needs, light case management, housing navigation services, and substance abuse treatment and support.

The Concord CARE Center also serves as an after hours Warming Center to offer much needed support in a safe environment overnight. CORE teams and law enforcement will be able to make warming center placements.

CORE teams establish relationships with clients through regular communication and visits to camps and shelters, and serve as a point of contact for many social services. A 2016 count showed that about 1,100 county residents are without shelter on any given night.

Through CCHS, CORE teams connect clients to shelters, medical and mental health care, case managers, substance use disorder treatment and services, benefit counselors, housing, and other services.

Most Contra Costa cities rely on their police departments to manage homelessness, leading to a drain on public safety resources as officers repeatedly respond to complaints about public disturbances, theft and panhandling; often involving the same few people. Those booked for infractions such as public intoxication or urinating in public rarely remain in jail longer than a night. They are often released a few hours after booking at Martinez Detention Facility.

To help alleviate the impact on their police, Martinez and Pleasant Hill will soon share a full-time outreach team to connect with homeless residents as part of a new Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) plan to more efficiently deliver services to the county’s homeless community. The cities agreed to fund the cost of a two-member team of CCHS outreach workers who will operate 40 hours a week within their boundaries.

There is no one single solution to eradicating homelessness in our community. Through these programs the County has implemented in cooperation with our cities and many non-profit groups, I am hopeful that we can make a difference in the lives of individuals living on the street. For more information about Homeless Services in Contra Costa County and how you can help, go to cchealth.org/homeless.


                                      Alternatives to Toxic Pesticides

Growing up in Hawaii it was common for me to encounter a wide range of insects and pests both inside and outside my home. Weeds grew quickly in the warm tropical environment. Our response? My family had a monthly contract with a pesticide company to spray both the inside and outside of our house with a thick layer of toxic chemicals. Fortunately, these pests and fast growing weeds aren’t as prevalent here in California, but how I manage them now is very different from my childhood in Honolulu. There are some great alternatives available to using highly toxic pesticides.

It is important for us to do our part to preserve our environment for future generations. We also want to keep our children, pets, and wildlife safe from harmful chemicals. Since 2001, Contra Costa County governmental departments have reduced their pesticide use by 60%. However, the County’s use of pesticides is only 2% of all reported use in Contra Costa.

Before using pesticides or rodenticides around your home or business, consider other options. There are great resources available to help you make an informed decision about how to handle any number of pest problems, whether it is insects, rodents, or weeds. Some that I have found very helpful include the following.

The Our Water-Our World program is a partnership between many different water pollution prevention agencies and stores that sell pesticides to the public. Their goal is to help you manage home and garden pests in a way that protects the health and safety of your family, pets, and the environment. Visit their website at www.ourwaterourworld.org to find materials designed to assist you in finding non-toxic and less-toxic solutions for managing pests in and around your home, including helpful fact sheets, and their booklet, Pests Bugging You? Choose Products Less Toxic to People, Pets and the Environment! Click on “promotional materials” and then on “booklets.”

The University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program has numerous fact sheets on managing pests in and around the home with a minimum amount of pesticide. You can find the fact sheets at www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/index.html.

The Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program also has a variety of links to inform you of the types of pesticides on the market with their risks to the environment and your family. They offer non-toxic methods, disposal suggestions and more. Visit their site at www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/GENERAL/pesticides_urban.html.

Trained volunteers from the Contra Costa Master Gardener Program answer questions from Contra Costa County residents about pests and pesticides during their Help Desk hours, Monday through Friday from 9am to Noon. You can visit them at 75 Santa Barbara Road, 2nd Floor, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523; call them at 925-646-6586; or send an email to ccmg@ucanr.edu. Visit their website at www.ccmg.ucanr.edu/ for more information about gardening in Contra Costa.

The Contra Costa Agriculture Department can also answer questions about pests and pesticides. They have a biologist on-call from 8am to 5pm at their Concord office, 2366-A Stanwell Circle. You can bring your pest problems into the office or call 925-646-5250 for advice.

The Mt. Diablo Audubon Society has information on their website regarding a variety of issues that affect our wildlife such as DON'T TAKE THE BAIT! AntiCoagulant Rat Poisons Kill, which you can read on their site at www.diabloaudubon.org/conservation.php#RatPoison. There is also a link to their brochure called Who Will Save Us?, which you can print and distribute to others, also on their site at www.diabloaudubon.org/WhoWillSaveUs-E.pdf.

Finally, if you have any of these toxic products on hand, please dispose of them safely by taking the materials to your hazardous waste facility. In Contra Costa County, call 1-800-750-4096 for locations and information or go to www.co.contra-costa.ca.us/depart/cd/recycle/.

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Navigating through the County’s large volume of programs, services and information can be difficult, but help is just a click of the mouse away. Contra Costa County’s website includes a LiveChat program, weekdays from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. You can access it right from a button on the County’s homepage (and just to your left). You will also find the LiveChat button on every page of the County’s website. Thousands of county residents have taken advantage of this service, posing questions ranging from how to access property information, where to pay taxes, or how to license a pet. Tap into the Live Chat team and you’ll be talking in real time with staff at Contra Costa’s Libraries trained to help answer questions that might be tough to resolve just by searching online.

Response to the service has been overwhelmingly positive, from both citizens who have used it and from staff who have expressed how rewarding it is to be able to help residents navigate the sometimes complicated maze of County government information. Much of the information is actually available on various pages of the County website. Your inquiries through LiveChat, which are tracked and reported to the County’s departments, will help to organize the information so that it will be easier for future visitors to find.

My staff works hard to make my own District 2 website informative and up to date with many useful resources for my constituents. In addition to links to all of the District 2 city websites, you will find links to many local, county, and state organizations such as East Bay Regional Park District, Contra Costa Water District, local CERT training groups, and the California Secretary of State for voter registration. You will be able to see the advisory boards I make appointments to, where there are vacancies, and learn how to apply for those openings. You can also quickly access the Board of Supervisors’ agendas for the current and past meetings, view past issues of my e-Newsletter, as well as sign up to receive a copy each month via email. If you’re not already, I encourage you to become one of our many regular e-Newsletter subscribers. Each month’s edition showcases local events and includes short, informative articles about what is going on in the County. Join my mailing list by clicking on e-Newsletters in the left navigation list. Along with my Facebook page and Twitter account (@AndersenCandace), my e-Newsletter is another way of communicating with you on a regular basis.