PITTSBURG -- Transforming a dormant industrial area into a crude oil storage and shipping facility could have negative health consequences for a downtown neighborhood that includes two large churches and nearby elementary schools, said most residents at a public meeting this week.
WesPac Energy-Pittsburg LLC has a $200 million development proposal on the table to transform land once used by PG&E into a facility to unload crude oil from ships and rail cars, store it in renovated fuel tanks, and send it through pipelines to local refineries.
The project would include building a new rail transload facility, modernizing and reactivating most of the site's tanks, while replacing four 500,000-gallon tanks in southern end of the 125-acre property with newer, smaller ones. It would also repair an existing connection to the San Pablo Bay pipeline, and add a new line to the Chevron KLM system and about a half-mile of line from the railcars to the tanks.
About 40 residents attended Monday's meeting, which is part of the meticulous process required by state law to get feedback on a project's effects on the environment.
Residents questioned the project's potential for soil contamination, gaseous odors, fire dangers and prolonged effects on area air and water quality and health issues such as increased risk of asthma, cancer and birth defects.
"This is not something I want in my community," said Lyana Monterrey, a 20-year Pittsburg resident who lives in the Marina Walk neighborhood.
Resident Jan Schrock added there are a lot of "big red flags," including the risk of fire given a recently closed fire station, the jeopardizing of property values and increased pollution from idling railcars and ships.
Pittsburg is taking written comments on the project until Sept. 13. A final version of the more-than-2,000-page Environmental Impact Report, including public comments, is expected to be completed by mid-November, said Kristin Pollot, a city planner.
Despite mitigation measures, the project's construction would have a significant impact on air quality while its operation would effect greenhouse gas emissions, the report said. It also says dredging and pile driving could have an adverse impact on the San Francisco Bay estuary, while oil spills could also harm local wildlife, water supplies and the shoreline.
Bobbi Palmer, executive director of the Los Medanos Community Health Care District, added that studies have shown Contra Costa County has a disproportionate amount of air quality issues, with the Pittsburg area being "at the top of the list of dirtiest."
The project will only impact the area's air quality and respiratory issues for residents negatively, she said.
Several WesPac officials were also in attendance Monday.
Eric Zell, a WesPac spokesman, reiterated that this is the "beginning of a long process" and, though some of the fears may be overstated, the Irvine-based company will now meet with residents to try and alleviate concerns.
WesPac officials say the project will strengthen the Bay Area's oil storage and transfer capacity, while adding rail was in response to a request made by oil refineries, which are looking to use more domestic crude oil from Midwest oil fields.
Up to 225 jobs would be created during the two-year construction phase, while the finished facility would provide about 40 permanent full-time jobs.
Similar projects that use rail to deliver crude are being developed elsewhere in California, including Benicia, where officials are considering a use permit for the Valero refinery. Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.
A copy of the report can be obtained at http://www.ci.pittsburg.ca.us/index.aspx?page=700. Copies are also available at the Pittsburg Library at 80 Power Ave. and Pittsburg's planning department at 65 Civic Ave. Written comments, which are accepted through 5 p.m. Sept. 13, can be emailed to email@example.com, faxed to 925-252-4814 or mailed to Kristin Pollot, 65 Civic Ave., Pittsburg, 94565.