EPA Takes over Greka's Bell Lease Cleanup

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency assumed control of all clean-up efforts at Greka's Bell Lease in Santa Maria, Calif., the agency reported on April 1. EPA mobilized clean-up contractors who began work immediately.

The agency took this action because Greka Oil and Gas, Inc. has violated the "Order for Removal, Mitigation, and Prevention of a Substantial Threat of Oil Discharge," addressing their Jan. 29, 2008 oil spill at the Bell Lease.

"The EPA is stepping in to prevent further harm to the environment," said Daniel Meer, chief of the Response, Planning and Assessment Branch for the Superfund Division in the EPA's Pacific Southwest region. "We have given Greka Oil and Gas every opportunity to properly conduct this cleanup under federal oversight, but they have failed. So, the EPA will take over and the federal government will then seek reimbursement of those costs from Greka."

Greka has been engaged in clean-up efforts at recent spill sites. At the Bell Lease, Greka failed to remove petroleum and petroleum-contaminated media such as soil, and other debris from the environment. In addition, oil contamination remains in the creek that runs parallel to road at the site.

Greka also failed to provide EPA with the documents required pursuant to the order. Greka was required to submit a work plan addressing the causes of the spill and presenting plans to halt oil discharge and prevent recurrences of discharges no later than Feb. 28, 2008; and a sampling plan no later than Feb. 14, 2008. Neither plan was submitted. Additionally, Greka informed the agency that it would not be submitting a work plan on April 1 for removal of oil and solids from the facility wastewater ponds, as required by the order.

The statute allows for fines of up to $32,500 per day, for each violation. Greka may face fines and penalties pursuant to order for the violations.