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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

State Investigates 2 Arco Stations

Environment: The businesses in Ventura and Simi Valley are closed while underground fuel tank repairs are scrutinized.

August 08, 2000|GARY POLAKOVIC | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Two Arco gas stations in Ventura County have been closed as part of an investigation into whether the oil company misled authorities about underground fuel tank improvements.

BP Amoco voluntarily closed the stations in response to a statewide probe by California environmental officials. About 500 Arco stations have been inspected so far, and 50 of them closed while investigators inspect underground tanks and plumbing for leaks and attempt to determine whether the company falsified records to conceal that required safety improvements were not performed on some tanks.

A company spokeswoman would not comment on the allegations and said the gas stations were shut down as a precaution.

"We have no evidence of leaks at any of the stations that are closed," spokeswoman Cheryl Burnett said. "They are closed out of caution only. The regulators are working with us."

On July 18, corporate officials notified operators at the Arco stations at 2124 E. Harbor Blvd. in Ventura and 2401 Tapo St. in Simi Valley that their refueling operations would be shut down while inspections were conducted. Food services at those stations continue.

The company is applying for permits to upgrade the tanks if necessary. BP Amoco or its contractor-dealers operate 1,726 Arco gasoline stations nationwide. Around Ventura County, various companies operate about 300 gasoline refueling sites using over 600 tanks, half of which are in some stage of cleanup, said Doug Beach, manager of the hazardous materials section for the county Environmental Health Division.

Jim Spagnole, a spokesman for the California Environmental Protection Agency, said the department is investigating, among other things, whether Arco stations complied with a law that required replacement of all single-wall underground fuel tanks with double-wall tanks by Jan. 1 of this year. Service station operators had 10 years to comply with the law and in the end were required to submit self-certification documents to prove the work was completed, he said.

"What [the tanks] are suspected of is not being repaired the way they are reported to have been repaired," Spagnole said.

The state environmental agency and the state Water Resources Control Board launched the investigation after disclosures of possible tank violations at an Arco station in Stockton. The agencies have referred the case to the attorney general's office, although no charges have been filed and investigators would not discuss details of the probe.

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