Officials: Mistakes made in warning public of Richmond refinery fire

  • In this undated photo released by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, structural damage is shown after the Chevron refinery fire in Richmond, Calif. Structural engineers have deemed the site of a Chevron refinery fire in the San Francisco Bay area hazardous for human entry after looking at the failed pipe that leaked and sent a towering plume of black smoke into the sky. Federal and state investigators are discussing plans for how to make the Richmond site safe so the faulty pipe can be removed for testing. (AP Photo/U.S. Chemical Safety Board)

SAN FRANCISCO — Mistakes were made in alerting the public about potentially dangerous pollution created by a huge fire at a Chevron Corp. refinery last month, regulators said Monday.

The disclosure came as the Bay Area Air Quality Management District held a public meeting in San Francisco to discuss its response and the myriad investigations into the Aug. 6 fire that started after a leak in an old pipe at the Richmond facility.

Regulators also told those who attended that they are working to improve pollution monitoring during emergencies. District executive officer Jack Broadbent said the initial, incorrect assertion that all air quality samples taken near the refinery fire were safe "clearly fell short."

"The public was suffering from this event," he said.

More than 15,000 people sought medical attention for breathing complaints and eye irritation, though officials said only three required hospitalization.

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