State Water Board Reaches $6 Million Settlement with LAC’s MTA for Underground Storage Violations

By on March 14, 2019

Following an investigation by the State Water Resources Control Board’s Office of Enforcement (OOE), 16 facilities owned by Los Angeles County (LAC) Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) have allegedly been in violation of regulations concerning storage of hazardous substances in underground storage tanks (UST). The violations came to light after the OOE initiated an investigation in July 2015 under the Government Owned and/or Operated Tanks (GOT) initiative after alleged violations were recognized during an inspection of one facility owned and operated by MTA.

The State Water Resources Control Board has reached a $6-million-plus settlement with LAC MTA in this matter.

The State Water Board’s OOE became concerned that similar violations may exists at MTA’s other facilities and inspections were completed at MTA’s 15 remaining facilities by April 2016. Multiple allegations of violations were identified at MTA’s USTs and included: failure to maintain primary containment, failure to maintain secondary containment; failure to monitor product piping; failure to maintain spill containment requirements; failure to maintain UST monitoring systems; operating without a permit; and, tampering with leak detection equipment.

“This settlement demonstrates that public and private tank owners will be held equally accountable in protecting water quality through the enforcement of UST statutes and regulations,” said Yvonne West, director of the State Water Board’s Office of Enforcement. “In this case, MTA has taken great steps forward in coming into compliance, and we expect the resolution will be effective in maintaining that compliance.”

The MTA lawsuit is the sixth enforcement action by the State Water Board’s Office of Enforcement against a public entity under the State Water Board’s Government Owned and/or Operated Tank (GOT) initiative that started in 2010 with the assistance of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The GOT initiative is part of the state’s UST Program. The program seeks to protect the public’s health and safety as well as the environment from petroleum releases and other hazardous substances from leaking underground tanks. The GOT initiative is to ensure that UST violations owned by local, state and federal agencies are handled in a similar manner as violations associated with privately owned USTs.

According to the terms of the settlement, MTA will pay $2 million in civil penalties to the State Water Pollution Cleanup and Abatement Account and $67,050 for reimbursement of enforcement costs. Two million dollars will be suspended with the stipulation that MTA completes several enhanced compliance actions. The remaining $2 million will also be suspended provided MTA maintains compliance with the underground storage tank requirements specified in the judgment for a period of five years.

The final settlement agreement, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, can be found at: https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/enforcement/docs/2019/la_metro_20190225.pdf.