After the Chevron refinery fire this past Monday, which spewed smoke and petroleum chemicals into the air, residents of Richmond, CA are claiming health problems and seeking restitution.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District investigated the scene, and results from sample came back on Wednesday. “The results of our lab analysis of air samples from the Chevron fire show levels of these potentially toxic pollutants to be well under their reference exposure levels or RELs, and not a significant health concern.”
RELs – Reference Exposure Levels – are set at levels that could impact the most sensitive types of people, which include children, the elderly, and people with a history of respiratory problems.
Despite the assurance, residents remain very concerned. The Chevron refinery has a history of pollution emissions, and has been cited for violations multiple times.
Steven Zavestoski is a sociology professor at the University of San Francisco who studies the dynamics of communities involved in environmental disasters. He also happens to live near the Chevron refinery in Richmond, and was an eye-witness to the fire.
He says that power relationships between the community and the company are very important gauges of how the company will respond to the disaster. For example, willingness to address health problems related to the disaster indicates whether the community can interact with the company. Zavestoski pointed out that BP reserved money for victim’s of its infamous 2010 oil spill to pay for unclaimed damages later.
“Chevron has set up claims lines,” he said, “but my sense is their strategy is to pay out small claims and get signatures on two documents — a nondisclosure agreement regarding how much was paid and for what reason; and a document indicating no further liability. People may not realize what they’re signing away.”
Residents may have to work through bureaucratic tape in order to file a claim, and may be asked to give a statement about their health before receiving a full diagnosis from a doctor. Some victims may not have health problems for years after the incident, which will make it much more difficult for them to file a claim. Victims of any kind of personal injury should seek a consultation with a personal injury attorney, as well as an examination from a doctor, as soon as possible after a disaster or accident occurs. Insurance companies, including those that work for large companies like Chevron, may ask for statements up front, before victims have all the information they need to make informed claims. Attorneys, including the experienced group at Strom Law Firm, offer free consultations, and can tell you whether you are in a position to file a claim or not.
If you or a loved one has concerns about personal injury, please contact Strom Law, LLC today. 803.252.4800.