State Attorney General Files Suit Against BP and Arco for Hazardous Materials Violations

(BCN) — California Attorney General Kamala Harris and district attorneys from seven counties across the state are filing a lawsuit alleging that BP and Arco engaged in environmental violations at more than 780 gas stations in the state.

The lawsuit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, alleges that BP West Coast Products, BP Products North America, Inc., and Atlantic Richfield Company have violated state laws governing hazardous materials and hazardous waste by failing to properly inspect and maintain underground tanks used to store gasoline for retail sale at gas stations in California.

Arco is a subsidiary of BP, which is headquartered in London.

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley and prosecutors from six other counties joined Harris in filing the suit.

The suit claims that since October 2006, the BP companies and ARCO have improperly monitored, inspected and maintained the underground storage tanks.

It alleges that the oil companies tampered with or disabled leak detection devices and failed to test secondary containment systems, conduct monthly inspections, train employees on proper protocol, and maintain operational alarm systems, among other violations.

The suit says inspectors from the Alameda County Department of Environmental Health obtained documents that showed BP officials instructed their service stations in Alameda County to maintain gasoline leak detection sensors at a height contrary to California law.

The suit alleges that this resulted in leak detection sensors at multiple ARCO stations in the county to be positioned so they were unable to detect a fuel leak at the earliest possible opportunity.

The lawsuit also claims that the defendants improperly handled and disposed of hazardous wastes and materials associated with the underground storage tanks at retail gas stations throughout the state.

The suit says a statewide investigation found violations of hazardous materials and hazardous waste laws and regulations at gas stations in 37 counties across the state, including 28 gas stations in Alameda County.

O’Malley said in a statement, “The laws that regulate proper handling and storage of hazardous materials are not trivial. They exist to protect the precious and finite public resource that is a clean and safe environment.”

She said, “When a fuel leak occurs it can contaminate the soil and groundwater for decades. We will not tolerate the dangerous and irresponsible practice of cutting corners on environmental regulations.”

BP officials could not immediately be reached for comment this morning.

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