Environment News Service (ENS)

Another Greka oil spill fouls California creek

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Source: Environment News Service (ENS)

More than 25,000 gallons of crude oil was spilled near Buellton, California on Saturday, but the spill was not even discovered until 13 hours after it started, according to a report on the incident issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA.

Overfilling of a produced wastewater tank caused the spill on the Greka Energy Zaca Lease. The oil and produced water spilled into the secondary containment of the Davis Tank Battery, but the tank containment was comprimised by an unvalved 12' diameter drainage conduit that allowed the oil and wastewater to flow out of the secondary containment, the EPA reports.

The contaminants migrated through a Santa Barbara Co. Roads Yard, through a winery equipment storage yard and finally into an unnammed tributary to Zaca Creek where it initally flowed half a mile down an unnamed creek.

The Santa Barbara County Fire Department and the California Department of Fish and Game, DFG, responded to the spill. The DFG directed Greka to retain a contractor to clean up the creek. Greka retained Advanced Cleanup Technologies.

Because it was raining, Greka built to dams to prevent the oil from migrating futher down the creek. But on Saturday night, due to flash flood conditions in the creek bed, the dams were breached and the oil flowed another three-quarters of a mile downstream.

EPA personnel have been on-site since Saturday and is undertaking an investigation. Greka Energy has been responsible for three major, and numerous minor oil spills in the area in the past two years.

'We have significant concerns whenever a company has repeated releases of oil to the environment and this is the second major release from a Greka Energy facility since December 2007,' said Daniel Meer, chief of the Response, Planning and Assessment Branch for the Superfund Division in the EPA's Pacific Southwest region.

In early December, Greka spilled more than 74,000 gallons of oil in Santa Maria, California.

'We will use all available tools under the Clean Water Act to ensure that this company is brought into compliance with all applicable laws and regulations,' Meer declared.

The EPA will continue to work with members of the California Department of Fish and Game, the U.S. Coast Guard's Pacific Strike Team, and Greka Energy in containment and clean-up efforts, to prevent further harm to the environment.

While concentrating on clean up efforts at the current spill site, the EPA is also taking action to prevent future Greka spills.

At the heart of the EPA's strategy to prevent oil spills from reaching our nation's waters, the agency requires that certain facilities develop and implement oil spill prevention, control, and countermeasures, or SPCC, plans.

EPA personnel are currently inspecting Greka facilities throughout the region to determine what control measures are necessary to prevent future spills at Greka locations.

California Assemblymember Pedro Nava, Assemblymember Jared Huffman, chair of the Committee on Environmental Safety & Toxic Materials, and the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing to receive information about and deliberate responses to Greka's recent oil spills, as well as the company's long history of incidents on January 4, just one day before this latest spill. They will hold another hearing on January 15.

'Greka has a remarkable history of numerous environmental violations that threaten the health and safety of Santa Barbara County residents, its own employees and state and local emergency personnel. It's time we took a good hard look at their operations,' said Nava.

'I've been reviewing violation reports stretching over the last eight years,' said Nava. 'Whether it's a million dollar United States EPA fine for dumping contaminated wastewater into wells posing a risk to groundwater supplies or failing to provide adequate hazmat training to its own workers, their behavior is unconscionable.'

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