White smoke billowed upward from the off Smith Avenue this week, signaling the re-opening of a portion of the plant’s oil re-refinery segment that was damaged from a fire.
After seven months of repairs, Evergreen’s re-refinery section re-started its operations on Oct. 31, according to City Manager John Becker.
Becker said the city signed off and granted the company a temporary occupancy permit after city officials conducted numerous inspections to ensure that final repairs and construction were completed before the reopening of the re-refinery station known as "Train 2."
The re-refinery and hazardous waste company’s re-refinery section was immediately shut down March 29 after a thinning pipe, which , caused the that injured one employee.
The March fire damaged pumps, wiring and other equipment. As of late August, 200 feet of pipeline was replaced using stainless steel, a material less subject to corrosion, according to Evergreen Plant Manager Bob Gwaltney who spoke with Patch during a .
The company also had to gain approval of several public agencies, including Alameda County Fire Department, Alameda County Department of Environmental Health, Bay Area Air Quality Management District and Cal/OSHA.
March’s incident was not the first time Evergreen had been problematic, but Becker said since March's incident, the plant’s management team has met all expectations and taken steps to improve safety at the plant.
In August, Gwaltney said Evergreen conducted regular emissions testing, had upgraded the vapor recovery system that vacuums up escaping gas during truck loading, and required plant operators to complete a combined total of 3,200 hours of training and testing.
Becker said it is no secret that Evergreen has had “legitimate issues” in the past, “but I hope new management will be better."
Becker said Evergreen has rebuilt damaged piping and implemented new training programs and a new way to report odor complaints.
Since its inception in 1986, Evergreen has received numerous citations and fines from county, regional and state agencies over the years totaling tens of thousands of dollars. According to Becker, Evergreen had been cited for 10 leaks and odor spills in months prior to the fire, resulting in about $4,000 in fines.
"We have made some mistakes, and frankly, some mistakes we're not proud of," Gwaltney said. "This event really served as a wake-up call for everyone at Evergreen. How we've operated in the last 25 years is not how we want to operate in the next 25 years."
Calls to Gwaltney for comments about the re-start of re-refining operations have yet to be returned.
The company has increased its outreach to the community, publishing newsletters, holding a community meeting and calling for residents to join the (ENCAP).
For more information about Evergreen, visit www.evergreenoil.com.