Big Oil Names Ordered to Provide Clean Water

EPA ordered 13 parties to help replace gasoline additive-contaminated drinking water to ensure clean drinking water for California residents.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered 13 parties to help replace gasoline additive-contaminated drinking water in West Los Angeles' Charnock Sub-Basin aquifier to ensure clean drinking water for Santa Monica residents.

Those receiving orders are Chevron USA Inc., Exxon Mobil Corp., ARCO, Conoco Inc., Douglas Oil Co. of Calif., Kayo Oil Co., Unocal Corp., Mobil Oil Corp., Tosco Corp., Thrifty Oil Co., Best California Gas, Kazuho Nishida and HLW Corp.

These parties join Shell Oil Co., Shell Oil Products Co. and Equilon Enterprises, who EPA and the LA Regional Water Quality Control Board ordered on Sept. 22, 1999 to provide drinking water.

"We believe it is important in this case to require those who have contaminated a community's drinking water to provide replacement water," said Julie Anderson, director of EPA's regional Waste Management Division.

"The next step is to determine the best means to remediate the contamination and restore the water basin."

Remediation is already in progress at several sites.

Both the City of Santa Monica and Southern California Water Co. operated drinking water wells in West Los Angeles which they shut down in 1996 due to contamination by the gasoline additive, Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE).

With seven wells out of service, Shell, Chevron and Exxon initially agreed to reimburse the city and the water company for water replacement costs.

The agreement with the city expired on January 6, 2000.

Under EPA's and the Regional Board's September orders, Shell continued providing water on Jan. 7.

This was in response to finding from the early 1990s. At that time, underground storage tanks at a service station operated by Shell released gasoline containing MTBE.

EPA has since found that service stations operated by the parties named above also contributed to the Charnock Sub-Basin contamination.

EPA and the Regional Board plan to take additional enforcement actions to address MTBE groundwater pollution in the Charnock Sub-Basin.

Of the 28 gasoline underground storage tank locations investigated in the area, at least 24 have leaked fuel containing MTBE.

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