EPA fines California refiner in wastewater case

The US Environmental Protection Agency has fined a California refinery operator $1 million and has sentenced the company to 3 years of probation for breaking federal drinking water laws.

Jun 18th, 2007

Nick Snow
Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON, DC, June 18 -- The US Environmental Protection Agency has fined a California refinery operator $1 million and has sentenced the company to 3 years of probation for breaking federal drinking water laws.

Santa Maria Refining Co. pleaded guilty on Apr. 12 and was sentenced in federal district court in California's central district last week for posing a risk to groundwater supplies by disposing of contaminated wastewater in wells that did not have permits for that use.

EPA said the wastewater contained benzene, which can cause anemia, excessive bleeding, and cancer as well as affect the immune system.

Santa Maria Refining, which is a Greka Energy Corp. subsidiary operating in Santa Maria, also was sentenced for making false statements to EPA and ordered to pay $15,000 in restitution and implement an independently audited environmental program, EPA said on June 15.

It said three individual defendants also pleaded guilty to making false statements to EPA. They each face 5-year federal prison terms, EPA said. Sentencing is pending.

EPA said it has been investigated allegations that Santa Maria Refining officials knowingly and routinely discharged refining waste into underground wells that only hold permits for the disposal of brine, which is separated from oil during the refining process.

It said it fined the facility $127,500 in June 2006 for unauthorized refinery wastewater disposal into the plant's injection wells.

Contact Nick Snow at nsnow@cox.net.

More in Refining & Processing