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Ventura County

Exxon to Pay for Cleanup of '91 Spill

Oil: The agreement tops $4.7 million. The pipeline break dumped 75,000 gallons into the Santa Clara River.


Eleven years after a broken oil pipeline spilled 75,000 gallons of sticky crude into the Santa Clara River, an oil company has reached an agreement with the federal government to pay the cleanup costs.

Within the next few months, Exxon Mobil Corp. will shell out more than $4.7 million to reimburse a host of public agencies and help pay for the cleanup of future spills nationwide.

"This was a tough spill," said Laurie Williams, an attorney with the federal Environmental Protection Agency's Pacific Southwest Region, which had filed a lawsuit against the oil company before the agreement was reached.

"The meaning of our action is to alert other companies that not only are the spills environmentally damaging but it will be expensive for them."

The spill occurred Jan. 31, 1991, when a 12-inch-diameter pipeline ruptured in Valencia, near the border between Ventura County and Los Angeles County. Corrosion caused the section of pipeline to split.

Before the spill was contained in about 10 minutes, oil had dumped into the adjacent Santa Clara River.

At the time, it was the seventh major accident in less than a decade for the oil company, then called Mobil Oil.

The company was replacing portions of the pipeline, according to Williams.

About 250 birds and other animals died in the spill, which occurred as the oil was being pumped along a 90-mile stretch of pipeline from a gathering station in Kern County to a refinery in Torrance, Williams said.

Nearly $2.7 million will go to continuing cleanup of the spill area.

Another $600,000 will go into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which is set aside for oil-spill cleanups nationwide.

Just less than $1 million will be used to reimburse the state Department of Fish and Game. Crews from the agency assisted in the cleanup and assessments of the long-term damage to nearby plants and wildlife.

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