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Mobil Ordered to Pay Water Supply Damages

March 08, 1997

State officials Friday ordered Mobil Oil Corp. to pay Santa Monica the costs of replacing part of the city's ground water supply after leaky underground tanks allegedly tainted the drinking water.

Mobil must pay the city $104,000 for replacement water piped in since two city wells were closed in September, and an additional $19,980 every month until all contamination has been cleaned up.

The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board cracked down on the oil company after it failed to devise a payment agreement in talks ordered last month with city officials.

"Mobil should be ashamed that it has taken an order of the water board to get it to do this," said Joseph Lawrence, assistant city attorney. "There's no excuse for it to have reached this point."

A Mobil spokeswoman said officials had not had time to review the decision.

The city has been paying for replacement water since the fall, when it closed wells at the Arcadia Water Well Field after chemicals leaked into the ground water supply. City officials have charged in a lawsuit that Mobil allowed a smog-reducing additive called methyl tertiary butyl ether or MTBE, to seep into the wells, contaminating 10% of the drinking water.

State legislators and city officials have voiced criticism of the board's enforcement, saying that the state has been soft on the oil company's alleged role in the pollution.

On Friday, state Sen. Tom Hayden (D-Los Angeles) blasted state environmental protection officials for not demanding a payment from Mobil more quickly. Hayden said he plans to hold hearings on the state's oversight of Mobil and other oil companies.

State officials denied allegations that the board was lenient on Mobil, arguing that state actions helped resolve payment for the contaminated water.

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