Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O'Malley and six other district attorneys filed a civil lawsuit Monday against BP West Coast Products, BP Products North America, Inc., and Atlantic Richfield Company for allegedly violating state laws governing hazardous materials and hazardous waste.
In their suit, which was joined by California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, charges that the companies failed to properly inspect and maintain underground tanks used to store gasoline for retail sale at more than 780 ARCO gas stations in the state.
"The laws that regulate proper handling and storage of hazardous materials are not trivial," O'Malley said. "They exist to protect the precious and finite public resource that is a clean and safe environment."
"When a fuel leak occurs, it can contaminate the soil and groundwater for decades," she added. "We will not tolerate the dangerous and irresponsible practice of cutting corners on environmental regulations."
The complaint, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, alleges that, since October 2006 the BP companies and ARCO have improperly monitored, inspected and maintained underground storage tanks used to store gasoline for retail sale.
The complaint alleges that the defendants tampered with or disabled leak detection devices, and failed to test secondary containment systems, conduct monthly inspections, train employees in proper protocol and maintain operational alarm systems, among other violations.
Documents obtained by inspectors from the Alameda County Department of Environmental Health showed that BP officials instructed its service stations in Alameda County to maintain gasoline leak detection sensors at a height contrary to California law. This resulted in leak detection sensors at multiple ARCO stations in Alameda County to be positioned so they were unable to detect a fuel leak at the earliest possible opportunity, the states attorneys allege.
The lawsuit also alleges 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.
A statewide investigation found violations of hazardous materials and hazardous waste laws and regulations at gas stations in 37 counties across the state, and at 28 gas stations located in Alameda County.