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U.S. EPA Takes Action Against San Francisco “Muni” following 2005 SF Bay Oil Spill

Release Date: 11/02/2009
Contact Information: (Media) Mary Simms, Simms.mary@epa.gov, 415-947-4270

SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is taking action against the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency following federal violations of the Clean Water Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

On behalf of the U.S. EPA, the Department of Justice has lodged a proposed consent decree with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against the city and county of San Francisco for releasing at least 940 barrels of diesel fuel -- some of which entered into Islais Creek, a tributary of the San Francisco Bay.

The proposed consent decree, subject to a 30 day public comment period, will require the city and county of San Francisco to pay a $250,000 civil penalty. It will also require SF Muni to implement an Incident Command System training program that will improve coordination and communication during future incidents of this nature.

This enforcement action stems from red dye diesel fuel being released from the Woods bus servicing facility, located at 1095 Indiana Street in San Francisco during late November and December of 2005. The EPA estimates at least 39,000 gallons of fuel were released.

The spill originated at the Woods motor coach refueling facility when a faulty hose ruptured and underground storage tanks overflowed. The released diesel fuel landed in a storm drain where heavy flows from a major December rain storm caused the storm drain to overflow to the stormwater line. The fuel then caused an interference with a San Francisco southeast wastewater treatment pump station. From there, some of the fuel spilled into Islais Creek, which drains into Central San Francisco Bay.

“Facility operators must pay rigorous attention to operational practices in order to protect the San Francisco Bay and our coastal resources,” said Laura Yoshii, the EPA's Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest.

The discharge of oil into Islais Creek and interference with the pump station were violations of the Clean Water Act. An EPA investigation also revealed that the release of diesel fuel was due to the failure of Muni staff to comply with federal regulations issued under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act that governs the management of underground storage tanks. The EPA has asserted that SF Muni’s federal RCRA violations include:

    Disabling an audible alarm system intended to alert operators to an ongoing release of diesel
    Failure to respond to flashing yellow alarm lights triggered by tank sensor alarms in full alarm mode
    Failure to maintain a written log noting the status, source, or reason for alarms
    Failure to use fuel inventory controls to monitor and observe that it was losing fuel from, the tanks at a constant conspicuous rate
    Inadequate containment
    A known kink and bulge in a faulty, braided, flexible hose that ultimately failed
    Failure to timely notify authorities of the release

Following the December 2005 spill at the Woods facility, the EPA investigated compliance at additional SF Muni bus servicing facilities. EPA inspectors found varying levels of noncompliance with spill prevention requirements at three facilities: the Flynn Facility, located at 15th and Harrison Street; the Kirkland Facility, located at 151 Beach Street; and the Marin Facility, located at 1399 Marin Street.

The city and county of San Francisco conducted remedial actions to clean up the spill in 2006 and has also taken initiative to evaluate its procedures and upgrade its facilities to prevent further spills. In addition to the work required by the consent decree, SF Muni has taken steps to decrease the likelihood of any future releases. These include:

    Completing all spill prevention, control, and countermeasure requirements and including installation of adequate containment, and the preparation of spill prevention plans
    Replacing the piping in underground sumps
    Replacing the containment boxes under all diesel and gasoline dispensers,
    Repairing alarms
    Installing external alarms with light and horn notifications and a remote alarm monitoring system
    Establishing new procedures to monitor fuel inventory and provide MTA staff supervision for fuel deliveries
    Additional controls in order to quickly identify and respond to releases diesel fuel

For more information on the Clean Water Act, please visit the EPA’s Web site at
http://www.epa.gov/regulations/laws/cwa.html

For more information on the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, please visit the EPA’s Web site at:
http://www.epa.gov/regulations/laws/rcra.html

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