This image is part of the ‘Ojos’ bi-weekly series. Ojos is a photoletter that tributes people, their merits, the environment and connects our human experience to community with the use of a camera—here in the Bay Area.
“Back in November of last year they [Martinez Refining Company] had a spill with lots of white powder all over the place — the refinery claimed it was heavy metals, which I don’t know what heavy metals is,” Michael McCarthy said, who lives directly across from the Martinez Refining Company. “And I got sick two days later — it felt like the flu, a lot of congestion, coughing.” McCarthy was referring to a toxic spill of dust particles that were released by the company, exposing residents in Martinez to toxins, and were advised to not eat the vegetables grown outside and to wear masks. At the time of this image, the refining company had recklessly spilled coke dust for the third time since the November incident, McCarthy mentioned. He’s also suffered from a stroke. According to the 64-year-old McCarthy, he has lived near industrial neighborhoods for most of his life in the East Bay. He suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease too, a condition that causes shortness of breath, wheezing, or a chronic cough. The American Lung Association states that particle pollution is a growing threat to public health, with health studies linking strokes to air pollution, additionally. “I see big clouds of stuff sometimes.”