RICHMOND -- Chevron closed on Saturday the centers in Richmond that had been set up to handle claims that were triggered by the disastrous fire at the company's East Bay refinery earlier this month.
About 18,000 claims were handled by Chevron, through a combination of direct contacts with residents at the centers and calls to a toll-free number that Chevron had set up, said Donald Campbell, global manager for downstream and government affairs for San Ramon-based Chevron.
"We recognize that the Aug. 6 event was very regrettable," Campbell said. "We want to make things right. We have taken and are taking steps on a number of fronts to address the community's concerns."
The company will continue to maintain the 800 number now that the centers have been closed. One center was in North Richmond on Nevin Way and the other was about 1.5 miles away on Fred Jackson Way.
All told, the number of claims was 18,300 as of Friday night. An estimated 2,100 claims resulted from field visits to the centers and 16,200 were from the call center.
"The toll-free number will continue to be maintained," said Justin Higgs, a Chevron spokesman. The number is 866-260-7881, Chevron said.
Some community leaders were skeptical that Chevron has done all it could in the wake of the fire that tore through the refinery's No. 4 Crude Distillation Unit and hobbled operations at the fuel factory.
"We've been telling people to be cautious about that process," said Andres Soto, an activist with Communities for a Better Environment. "What Chevron has done is a typical quick response. What the company is offering falls short of what people in the community want. People want more comprehensive compensation."
The company announced the day after the fire that it would pay medical expenses and reimburse property damage related to the blaze and resulting smoke that spread over cities throughout the East Bay
"Chevron needs to compensate people not only for the injuries of the day, but also for the consistent daily contamination that the refinery puts out," Soto said.
The energy giant received a number of claims that the company deemed questionable.
Among them: medical expenses for Viagra, with multiple claimants saying the psychological damage the fire obliged them to take the male sexual enhancement; clothing for pets, including a snow suit; a claim for $2,000 in dental bills from a person who says the smoke from the fire loosened his teeth; multiple claims for $100,000 from jail inmates who predict they will need surgery and physical therapy in the future due to the fire.
"Our goal was to look at all the claims and to respond," Campbell said. "We are responding. We tell people when we think they filed an invalid claim. But we are paying legitimate and appropriate expenses."
Contact George Avalos at 925-977-8477. Follow him at twitter.com/george_avalos.
To speak with a Chevron representative regarding an injury related to the recent Richmond refinery fire, call toll-free 866-260-7881.