Frequently Asked Questions

What was spilled and how much?
Laboratory analysis and technical review indicate that approximately 12-18 barrels (500-750 gallons) of diesel fuel and flush water mix leaked from a pipeline at Chevron’s Richmond Refinery wharf. The pipe is used to return a variety of excess oils and products to the refinery for reprocessing.

What was done in response?
Upon learning of the discharge, Chevron activated its government-approved response plan, isolated the source, began work to contain the release and notified all applicable agencies.

600 feet of containment boom was deployed around the Chevron wharf, and 1,200 feet of deflection boom was utilized to assist with product recovery and for the protection of environmental and economic sites. The environmentally sensitive sites at the Richmond Eelgrass Beds and on the southern side of Brooks Island were successfully boomed using a total of 3,600 feet and 2,500 feet of boom, respectively, to proactively protect the shorelines.

The only shoreline impacted was Saltwater Station, a small beach immediately south of the Chevron wharf, where crews have removed rock and vegetation.

As a precaution, public access sites on Western Drive and Keller Beach were closed to accommodate assessment and cleanup operations.

How is the clean up going?
Cleanup and recovery efforts are going well. The Shoreline Cleanup and Assessment Technique (SCAT) teams reports “no observed oil” throughout the response area other than the light sheening currently being addressed near the base of Long Wharf.

Were people or wildlife harmed?
No injuries to people or impacts to wildlife have been reported. The Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN), which was activated for the response, said in a tweet Thursday, February 11, that several aquatic birds were observed in the area of the spill (Wednesday and Thursday) but all were determined to be un-oiled. They added that the incident “no longer posed a significant threat to wildlife.” OWCN has “demobilized” its personnel and suggested those seeking more information visit the incident website (

Is the air safe for me to breathe?
Yes. Chevron and Contra Costa County Health Services monitored the onshore community air quality on the evening of February 9. The direct reading monitoring results did not detect concentrations of vapors that would indicate a health concern. The public health order issued by Contra Costa County earlier in the day was rescinded at 9 p.m. 

Is it safe to use the waterway or go fishing?
Yes. The waterways were reopened at 8:00 a.m. Thursday, February 11. The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment conducted an evaluation and did not recommend closing the area to recreational or commercial fishing.

Will there be any long-term problems associated with the spill?
We don’t anticipate any long-term problems, but as a precaution, scientists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife collected water and sediment samples for analysis. They also collected mussels from the shoreline which are being chemically analyzed. Due to the product’s characteristics, volume released, and location of the incident, it is unlikely any measurable sediment contamination or impacts to aquatic life will occur. 

What happens if the product can’t be recovered?
Diesel has a density less than water and therefore floats on water. The natural tendency of this product is to spread in a thin layer on the surface of the water as a sheen or film. Such sheens do not persist in the environment very long as they rapidly evaporate and breakdown in the sun and wind. Unified Command, and later, specific agencies will continue to monitor the area after cleanup and recovery activity subsides to ensure health, safety and the environment are protected.

Why didn’t Chevron notice the sheen first?
Chevron operators routinely conduct walk-throughs to observe operating areas and are always looking for signs of potential abnormal operating conditions. Despite these best efforts, a neighbor happened to observe a sheen first and notified the facility.

What was going on at the wharf that resulted in a leak? What does that pipe do? Is the area closed?
Two ships and two barges were at the wharf at the time of the incident. The pipe is used to return a variety of excess hydrocarbon, products and flushwater to the refinery for reprocessing. An investigation is still ongoing into what caused the leak.

Is there an investigation into the incident? If so, who is investigating?
Yes. State and federal agencies are conducting an ongoing investigation of the incident, as is Chevron. Updates, as they become available, will be shared at

Were Chevron and the county slow to alert the public, as some claim?
An investigation into initial response actions is ongoing. Chevron followed the notification procedures outlined in their Oil Spill Contingency Plan. Many notifications must be made within specific timeframes, as outlined by regulation, while simultaneously deploying resources to contain the release and ensuring responder safety. After being notified of the incident, Contra Costa County Health Services Department mobilized to the scene to conduct air monitoring and issued a Level 2 warning at 4:05 pm.   

Why did some community members not get Community Warning System or City alerts?
There are several ways to stay updated via the County, City and Chevron. Sign up for County Community Warning System updates at or call: 925-655-0111.

Who can I contact for more information?
For more information, call: 510-242-2000

Media inquiries:

  • Chevron: (925) 549-8686
  • Ca. Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (OSPR): (916) 214-3279
  • U.S. Coast Guard: (510) 772-8865