City Responds to Flare Station Flareup

public worksThe City of Berkeley’s Department of Public Works, which is responsible for the landfill gas flare station in the park, today issued a response to complaints made by this blog and by two Berkeley residents who witnessed flames, smoke and odor coming out of the top of the leaning rusty stack (see :

Thank you for alerting us of the status of the landfill methane flare operation observed on Friday, January 8th. We would first like to apologize for any discomfort this may have caused you.

By way of background, the gas flaring equipment at Cesar Chavez Park is an environmental control system required under local and state regulations for control of air emissions and greenhouse gases at closed landfills. As you may know, there is a current project to replace the flare station at Cesar Chavez Park, which is scheduled to be completed in spring 2016. Part of this project includes replacement of components of the wellfield, which in combination with the flare replacement is expected to allow the system to run more efficiently. During the project, there may be occasional, intermittent operational issues during programmed daily flare equipment on/off cycles. These cycles are currently allowed by permit. In order to mitigate actual or potential nuisance issues, the project team will be adjusting and improving the programming by incorporating new information, such as the data acquired from last Friday. Once the reprogramming is complete, it is expected that observable emissions will be greatly reduced.

We appreciate your patience with us as we work on making the park an enjoyable place to be while still complying with our legal environmental obligations. Please feel free to contact me directly should you have any additional questions. Thank you.

Taylor Lancelot, P.E.
Assistant Civil Engineer
City of Berkeley Public Works Department – Engineering Division
1947 Center Street, 4th Floor
Berkeley, CA 94704
T(510) 981-6421; F(510)981-6390


8 thoughts on “City Responds to Flare Station Flareup

  • if any disability – ADA activists want to contact me to figure out how to fight this please do. my email is
    The city was given a Pass by the BAAQMD to let the sometimes malfunctioning smoke stack keep burning, as it must to let the methane burn or there will be or could be a methane explosion.
    However, it’s polluting.
    And it’s an ADA violation when people with asthma, EI/MCS – which is now 20% of the population – cannot access the park, thusly making it an exclusive versus inclusive park!
    I politely disagree that only the “ultra sensitive” should avoid the park.
    Many kids, wise elders, families, pregnant women are at risk if they breathe those toxic chemicals!

    This is not an exclusive park, it is for us ALL
    Thanks, an injured MCS person who is still recovering from a bad exposure of 6 foot high flames and the worst toxic stench I have ever witnessed on 1/8/16 – and I have witnessed a lot after 20 years of EI/MCS, on and off but mostly on.

  • I worked very closely on this issue for 5 days straight with the BAAQMD and Joshua Abraham last week. This is what he said to me on Friday and I Quote “The flare station will be running 24/7 for several days or as long as it can sustain. Since it is old and needs to be replaced, and will be this spring, it will not be able to sustain the 24/7 run, so will then switch over to every 12 – 14 hrs. When this happens it may burn out of containment”
    Since the city has done nothing, due to loop holes in their Permit, there is nothing they can do to stop the emissions of toxins like hydrogen sulfide, methane and an entirely large list of other chemicals.
    One has not studied now this might mix with the chemicals already being spewed toward West Berkeley from Pacific steel casting.
    Other chemicals can and will be created with the mix of these toxins melding together toward us in West Berkeley and Berkeley and the east bay in general.
    I politely disagree that only the ultra sensitive should be aware of wind patterns.
    As someone living with sometimes severe chemical sensitivities, I know how challenging it is and of course I do not want even more people to live with this very difficult health condition which bars us from living full lives out in the open.
    And I sure do not want women to have Mis-carriages, the elderly made ill, or children with asthma to have attacks, or those healthy to acquire asthma.
    All of which can occur if these toxins are in the air, which could happen if the flare malfunctions during a 12 – 14 hour cycle, since that is exactly what happened the night of 1/8/16 when I was made ill from the large flame and toxins spewing. No matter the wind direction, it’s dangerous for one’s health.
    Of course we all want this remedied to enjoy OUR park, and that includes those of us with asthma and chemical sensitivities. WE are part of OUR and it’s a violation of the ADA when we are not able to access the park due to toxins.
    Thank you in advance for your kind understanding of our situation
    The 20% of Berkeley residents with asthma and chemical sensitivities, one out of 5 people, with a huge percent being children.

  • My understanding based on studying the history of the flare station is that they cannot run it 24/7 because it’s designed to run at a minimum of 100 scfm (standard cubic feet per minute) and a methane content in excess of 20 per cent. Below that, it won’t run. Sort of like a big engine that needs hi-test gas and will stall and choke and sputter if it doesn’t get it. They haven’t had that kind of gas flow since 2008, at least not on a steady basis. That’s why they’ve been running it about 11 hours per day so that the gas pressure can build up between runs. The problem with flames coming out of the top apparently happened — and I haven’t had anyone tell me they’re certain about it — because of some issue with the startup routine. They’ve been working on it. I’ve been in the park twice in the last three days and there’s been no visible problem with the flare station and no sign or smell of bad things in the air. Lots of people are out and about enjoying the park. People who are hypersensitive to air irritants and want to be absolutely sure that they’re not being exposed to anything other than the ocean breeze and the smog from the City should check the prevailing wind direction and only walk upwind or sideways from the flare station stack.

  • What we are requesting from the city of Berkeley is an Emission containment cap of some sort fashioned for the times the old flare station is unstable and burning the toxins above the old smoke stack.

    it is helpful that they are burning it 24/7, but when that does not work due to how antiquated the smoke stack is, hydrogen sulfide and a host of many other toxic chemicals may be burned legally into the air facing residents in Berkeley.

    This is not acceptable, given the new flare station will not be in place until the Spring.

    it’s very hard on people to not be able to access the park, especially for folks with asthma and chemical sensitivities, it effectively bars us from using the waterfront park, and with the Pier closed… there is nowhere to get any fresh air.

    Please contact the city of Berkeley Public works, the city manager’s office and the Mayor’s office. This is truly unacceptable for our health and the health of our children.

    Thank you

  • if you are reading this you may already know that the city Engineers finally took incentive to repair the old smoke stack, to keep it going until the replacement in the spring.
    it will still burn (it has to, due to the landfill) but they say it will burn 24/7 which means it will be more contained.
    BAAQMD told me today that it will still sometimes have to burn fewer hours such as every 12 – 14 hrs. which could possibly be a problem in regards to flames and stench.
    One can only hope for the best.
    I am still ill from last week, and did my best in dealing with the Bureaucracies involved. The city still has not replied to any of my emails asking for maximum containment, even during the transition process.
    We did not get this, however I think they may keep the flame lower by burning it 24 hours a day.
    When it cannot burn for 24 hours it could flame and stink and I am concerned about this.
    Stay safe

  • The EPA is not involved. However they recommended that we contest the Permit, if found to be valid, if we feel the burning is hurting our health, which it clearly is.
    We are only about one mile downwind from this toxic stench and want it stopped and the new flare replaced.
    I have no idea why they are doing this, to harm citizens and animals at the park, but it seems the city is trying to use up the old malfunctioning flare as much as they possibly can before replacing it, at any cost.
    Tax paying citizens are being made ill, vulnerable babies and children and the elderly included. it’s simply so WRONG and I hope you will join us in the fight to stop the toxic open burning at the park.
    My lungs and throat are not much better, and I had to cross a bridge yesterday just to get some clean air.
    Simply not fair given that Berkeley is right across from the Golden gate, where the ocean breezes come in.
    But they are being blocked by the toxic stew the flare is creating at the park, along with Pacific steel casting in west Berkeley.
    it is very difficult for those us with asthma and environmental allergies to even survive here. if we have a copy of the permit, which we have asked the city for, and the permit is deemed valid by the BAAQMD we are planning on contesting it and will need other people other than ourselves to sign on.
    please contact me if you are interested.
    Remember, the lungs you save could be your own!
    hydrogen sulfide in open burns such as this cause cancer. and the other landfill chemicals burning do, too.

  • I also meant to say we need a contact at the EPA who is in charge of landfill burning with such toxic air quality.
    if anyone knows who to contact there, please e mail me.
    it is difficult maneuvering their website or finding the correct person handling this kind of burning.
    I simply do not want more people bad ill by this toxic stew the city is allowing to occur right under our noses, lungs are precious, we are important enough to be told the truth!
    Gracias to all
    Please SPEAK UP ABOUT THE TOXIC FLARE BURNING AT CESAR CHAVEZ PARK – in this way you are honoring his name and his beliefs. We ALL Matter!

  • First off, thank you for publishing the letter public works emailed us today.
    I am disgusted for these reasons:
    ADA accommodation is not addressed, disability comes in many forms and asthma and chemical sensitivities ARE included. So many children in west Berkeley have asthma, the rates are incredibly high and there is no accommodation for their health.
    A child could be happily riding his bike, or flying a kite and have a Fatal asthma attack with the kind of toxins (hydrogen sulfide which smells like rotten eggs) and worse as landfill trash burning makes a very toxic stew. The combination of the various chemicals can make one very ill. I was lucky to not land in the ER the night of Jan. 8, when it was burning to the sky (6 foot flames, at least) and my lungs and throat, and head (migraines) are still not recovered and it has been 4 days.
    Any worse and I or someone like me, with asthma and environmental allergies (EI/MCS) could perish from the fumes.
    Please take this seriously and do not take your kids, pets, or yourself to the park unless there is some sort of clearance from the BAAQMD, who was contacted today, as well as the EPA. Having trouble getting through to the correct person handling these sort of toxic landfill burning complaints, so if anyone out there reading this knows, please contact me.
    Lastly, why is there zero signage to notify the public if this is all above board? if it’s really safe, and allowable under the air quality board, why is the city not notifying the public via their website, letters sent out to the citizens of Berkeley or a basic sign at the entrance of Cesar Chavez park notifying folks of what health risks they may be taking, or their pets or children may be taking by just being there? The burning can take place at any time, it seems, until the Spring when it is replaced. from the letter above there is no real concern for the citizens of Berkeley, with over 20% or more having Asthma or chemical sensitivities. That is about 1 out of 5 people. Please speak up to public works and your council person, Linda Maio is in charge of that district and have heard NADA from anyone except public works with the above, well crafted but vague letter.
    Lastly, if you know how to get in touch with anyone who deals with air quality and landfill burning please do let us know.
    I feel Cesar Chavez would not be pleased with the children of west Berkeley being put at such a Risk. let’s honor him by taking a stand against this toxic burning right in our backyard, at our beautiful waterfront park!
    Thank you,

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