City Secures Settlement for Wilmington Oil Spill

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge approved a $1.75 million settlement reached by the LA City Attorney’s Office and Crimson Pipeline Management, Inc. in a case involving a large oil spill in Wilmington in 2010. This constitutes a civil resolution of a criminal case that was filed in December 2011. Crimson Pipeline Management, Inc. and its affiliates have agreed to pay a total of $1.75 million in civil penalties and restitution costs to State and City agencies. The settlement also requires Crimson to implement an Environmental Compliance Program (or ECP), which includes regular inspections and the establishment of a reporting protocol.

“We are grateful to our partners at the City’s Bureau of Sanitation, Watershed Protection Division and California Department of Fish and Game, who are essential in our efforts to identify and successfully prosecute violators of our environmental laws,” said City Attorney Carmen A. Trutanich.

Law enforcement became aware of a pipeline breach on December 21, 2010, when significant amounts of oil seeped into Dominguez Channel during a large storm event. Investigators gathered samples of the discharged oil for evidence and were able to identify a hydrocarbon “fingerprint.” The fingerprinting analysis revealed that the material was consistent with the product shipped by Crimson Pipeline.

California Department of Fish and Game and Los Angeles Watershed Protection Diivsion were involved in the investigation and discovered a gash in the pipeline casing, which is the protective piping that surrounds the oil pipeline. The gash was wrapped and the carrier pipe inside the casing was pulled out of the ground in October, 2011. US EPA installed a retention system designed to capture any oil that reached the storm drain system during future rain events. During the cleanup, agencies recovered more than 1,000 gallons of pure crude oil and more than 290,000 gallons of contaminated water. Today, environmental agencies are still capturing oil in this retention system.

On December 13, 2011, the City Attorney’s Environmental Justice Unit filed a 61-count complaint against Crimson, alleging that the company and its operators unlawfully caused, allowed, permitted and contributed to the discharge of large quantities of oil into the municipal storm drain system, which led into the waters of Dominguez Channel and the Port of Los Angeles. The complaint also alleged that Crimson failed to report the spill to the proper agencies in a timely manner.

The settlement reached with Crimson is the largest ever obtained, in either a civil or criminal case, involving an oil spill violation.

Photo courtesy of wirralwater.

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