An oil change usually costs less than $30, but Signal Hill taxpayers recently shelled out $15,345 for one.
That's how much it cost the city to clean up after a man changed the oil in a friend's car while it was parked at the northeast corner of Hill Street and Walnut Avenue.
The oil flowed into a storm drain inlet at the intersection and spread to a rainwater detention basin at the northeast corner of Walnut and Pacific Coast Highway. It also got into another storm drain beyond that holding pond.
"We caught him in the act," said Public Works Director Richard Lundahl. "His five quarts of oil caused a $15,000 problem." Police declined to identify the man, saying the incident is under investigation.
The city called in its hazardous waste cleanup contractor, Advanced Cleanup Technologies Inc. Workers flushed the storm drains and detention basin with water, pumped out the contaminated water and hauled it away for proper disposal.
Lundahl said it's unlikely that the city will get any money out of the suspect, who is indigent. But the city is going after deeper pockets. It has billed the county government, arguing that the county's Flood Control District owns and is responsible for maintaining storm drains.
"It's not really fair for our taxpayers to bear this cost," Lundahl said.