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U.S. EPA CITES UNOCAL FOR SPILL VIOLATIONS

Release Date: 12/4/1995
Contact Information: Lois Grunwald, U.S. EPA, (415) 744-1588

 (San Francisco)--The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) today announced that it has issued a civil administrative complaint against Union Oil Company of California (Unocal), for failure to notify federal and state authorities in connection with two releases of hazardous substances from their San Francisco Refinery in Rodeo, Calif. in August and September of last year. U.S. EPA is proposing penalties of $489,800.

     "Releases of hazardous substances pose serious public health and environmental risks," said Keith Takata, director of the U.S. EPA's  Superfund Program.  "Businesses are obligated to immediately notify federal, state, and local response authorities when these releases occur so that response actions can be taken to protect the public and the environment.  We will take appropriate enforcement action against those who fail to meet their legal responsibility to report completely and promptly."

     Failure to immediately notify the proper authorities during and after an accidental release of hazardous and extremely hazardous substances violates the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act (EPCRA) and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).

     The facility was cited for the notification violations associated with the release of the hazardous substance, diethanolamine, which began on August 22 and continued until September 6, 1994. The leak was small when it began, but during a 16-day period, about 200,000 pounds of a substance called catacarb, which contained 10,000 pounds of diethanolamine, were released into the air.

     Catacarb is used in the crude oil refining process and was released through a crack which developed in a refinery tower. Unocal was cited for failure to immediately notify the National Response Center (NRC) and for failing to provide an appropriate written follow-up report to the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC).

     Unocal was also cited for notification violations associated with the release of nearly 200 pounds of hydrogen sulfide into the air, which occurred on September 15. In addition, Unocal was cited for failure to immediately notify the NRC and the SERC, and for failure to provide an appropriate written follow-up report to the SERC.  
                             
     Immediate notification is especially vital to ensure that emergency response personnel can properly evaluate the nature and extent of a hazardous substance release in order to determine the most effective response. Timely notification also ensures that local citizens and health care providers have sufficient information to make informed decisions about protecting the community and the environment, both before and after a hazardous substance release.


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