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Thousands Look for Money from Chevron Fire in Richmond, CA
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Just two days following toxic black smoke overtaking Richmond from a refinery fire at Chevron, residents have been filing claims against the company. Residents, over 1,000 of them, are claiming that they are suffering from nausea, coughing, psychological trauma and sore throats. The first 1,000 residents visited a law office downtown looking to file claims while another 1,000 called Chevron about the toxic smoke. Chevron had to setup shop downtown in answer the claims from residents, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

“I want enough money so we can move someplace with clean air,” said Monica Marquez. Marquez is 28 and is a mother of four. She claims that she and her children are suffering from headaches and wheezing from the fire. “I’ve lived here my whole life, but I’ve had enough. We need to get out and right now we can’t afford to.”

  
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The law office that heard most of the complaints from residents was that of Nick Haney’s, located on Macdonald Avenue. In the Bay Area, Richmond has one of the lowest per capita incomes, totaling $24,781 per year. That amount is 35 percent lower than the median for the Bay Area. Over one-third of the residents live under the federal poverty line. According to a study released by the Kaiser Foundation in 2011, one-third of the children living in Richmond have been hospitalized for asthma. That number is three times the rate across the county.

Haney said that not all claimants should expect money from Chevron, even if they are suffering from wheezing and coughing. Haney was part of the 1996 General Chemical settlement in Richmond that was for $200 million. “Just because you live in Richmond and there’s a fire, you don’t necessarily get a claim,” Haney said. “Unfortunately it’s going to be a weeding-out process. … I can only do so much.”

Haney now has to determine which claimants seriously suffered health complications from the toxic smoke and which ones had issues that predated the fire. What makes matters worse is that of the 1,700 people who visited local emergency rooms, a very small number of them were admitted.

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Constance Delaney is a clerk and she claims she has been suffering from a headache and the feeling that she ‘inhaled baby powder.’ “The little money they give us isn’t going to bring our health back,” she said. “We moved here from San Francisco because we couldn’t afford it there anymore. Now we know why Richmond was so cheap. But a few hundred dollars isn’t going to help us move somewhere without all this pollution.”

Kenneth Davis is a retired teacher and a reverend. He said that a couple hundred dollars would not fix things. “I’m telling my people, don’t sign anything. Wait, see how this plays out a little,” he said. “Why should we fight over nickels and dimes while they’re making millions?”



Davis was able to see the flames from the Chevron refinery from his apartment on Monday.

“I heard, ‘Boom! Boom!’ It scared the heck out of me,” he said. “You see how close we are to this madness? They treat us North Richmond residents like dogs. It’s not about shareholders and profits – it’s about human life, but they don’t seem to care about that because they don’t even live here.”



 

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