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Investigations of Oil Refinery Fire Still Under Way

City official said city cannot give clearance for operations until all investigations are complete.

Despite having pinpointed repairs needed at an oil refinery plant that caught fire in March, officials at the Evergreen Oil plans remain at a standstill while outside agencies continue investigating the cause of the fire.

Alameda County deputy fire marshal Holly Guier has said that a burst pipe is likely the cause of the March 29 fire that injured one person at the plant, which is located off Smith Avenue.

"We don't know exactly what caused the fire.  We know  and sprayed hot oil all over the refinery," she said.

The rupture took place when oil passed from one heat exchanger to another, Guier said. A section of four to five feet of pipe came apart. Oil from the broken pipe was dispersed and caught fire, Guier said. She added that a report on what occurred will soon be made public.

Meanwhile, Evergreen manager Bob Gwaltney said officials at the plant are working hard to take additional measures to prevent future fires.

"We have identified what needs to be repaired and replaced and we're now working with the city to get our permit to proceed," said Evergreen manager Bob Gwaltney.

The fire damaged pipes, vessels, pumps, wiring and other equipment in both sections of the plant.

Other plant operations such as collecting used oil, processing of wastewater and Evergreen's solid waste operations have remained in operation during the investigations. 

Gwaltney said the plant will continue to work with state agencies, including Cal-OSHA, to prevent further accidents. Cal-OSHA is still investigating the incident, according to Patricia Ortiz of Cal-OSHA's Department of Industrial Relations.

Typically, this type of investigations can take up to four months to complete, Ortiz said. She would not comment on any of the agency's findings since the fire.

Until all investigations are complete, Evergreen cannot be given the green light, according to City Manager John Becker.

Evergreen must receive clearances from Cal-OSHA, Alameda County Fire, Alameda County Health, an accidental release program, community development program in Newark, the city's Community Development Department, the city's Engineering Division and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District before re-refining oil can resume, Becker said.

The city’s main concern is to prevent this type of incident from happening again, he added.

"What I'm really focusing on is their process for repairing their plant and making sure that things are in place so we don't have a repeat of this," he said.  

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