Jan 27, 2014
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Chevron Richmond held its first-ever telephone town hall Thursday night, connecting about 3,800 community members with a new website that tracks Richmond’s air quality in real time.

Chevron representatives called the telephone town hall a success and plan to hold more, saying the emerging technology allows them to communicate with far more of their neighbors at one time than any community space can hold.

“It is becoming a popular tool that companies, elected officials and community leaders use to share information and have a conversation with large groups of people,” said Nicole Barber, a Public Affairs Adviser for Chevron Richmond.

Chevron Richmond pointed to Bay Area Congressman George Miller’s regular telephone town halls as an example of their effectiveness. The congressman uses the phone forums to have conversations with thousands of his constituents while he’s working in Washington D.C.

At Thursday’s town hall, experts from Chevron Richmond’s air quality team and Argos Scientific, the independent environmental service company operating as Chevron’s technical partner,  explained the technology behind the new Richmond Community Air Monitoring Program and fielded questions from residents. About a dozen callers posed questions about the program during the 45-minute meeting.

According to the experts, three air monitors have been installed on the perimeter of the Chevron Richmond Refinery, while another three have been placed in the neighborhoods of Atchison Village, North Richmond and Point Richmond. The installations were done in collaboration with city officials, neighborhood councils and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

The air monitors are designed to detect even the slightest hint of chemicals in the air, experts told callers. The data is then made available in real time on the website, fenceline.org/Richmond, which can be accessed 24 hours a day.

In response to one caller’s question about the radius of the air monitors’ detection capabilities, Don Gamiles, president and owner of Argos Scientific, said each monitor can detect chemicals “almost a quarter-mile” away.

“And they will capture any gas molecules that cross anywhere in that area,” Gamiles said. “It’s a great deal of area with just single instruments.”

Another caller expressed concern for community members who lack access to the Internet. She was told she could access the same information by calling  Chevron Richmond’s 24-hour hotline, (510) 242-2127 and advised to utilize computers at public libraries.

“This was a great opportunity to reach a much broader audience than at a traditional public meeting, making it an ideal way to communicate about a program that effects residents community-wide,” Barber said. “We received some excellent questions and positive feedback overall. We’ll definitely be doing this again.”


About the Author

Mike Aldax is the editor of the Richmond Standard. He has 13 years of journalism experience, most recently as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. He previously held roles as reporter and editor at Bay City News, Napa Valley Register, Garden Island Newspaper in Kaua’i, and the Queens Courier in New York City.