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Chevron USA Fined $38,000 for Illegal Chemical Dumping

Times Staff Writer

Using new authority that allows it to directly assess penalties against companies for permit violations, the Regional Water Quality Control Board fined Chevron USA Inc. $38,000 on Monday for discharging illegal levels of chemical wastes into Santa Monica Bay.

Board Engineer David Gildersleeve said the El Segundo refinery was fined for violating its discharge permit four times since November, when the board ordered it to halt what it called “an unacceptable pattern of non-compliance.”

It is the first time the refinery has been fined for permit violations, Gildersleeve said, and the first time the board was able to take advantage of state legislation passed last year to bypass the courts and fine companies directly.

The state board enforces the terms of a federal permit that allows Chevron to discharge up to 15 million gallons of treated waste water daily through an outfall pipe that extends 500 feet offshore and dumps into about 20 feet of water.

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The board accused Chevron of discharging nearly 10,000 pounds of suspended solids one day in February, nearly three times the amount allowed under the permit. On the three other occasions, the board said, Chevron discharged illegally high levels of phenolic compounds and other chemicals.

Gildersleeve said the fine is close to the maximum allowed by law--$10,000 per violation--because the board found that in only one instance had the company made an effort to prevent the illegal discharge.

He said the board plans to schedule a hearing to determine whether fines will be imposed for two more permit violations stemming from illegally high discharges of oil and grease in May.

No Appeal Planned

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Chevron spokeswoman Brenda K. Smyth said the company does not plan to appeal the board’s decision. The company paid the fine on Monday.

According to its own documents, Chevron has violated its discharge permit more than 250 times in the last eight years. The Sierra Club filed a lawsuit against the refiner in March, asking that it pay $2.3 million in fines for those violations and immediately cease illegal discharges.

Company officials have said the violations are the result of the discharge system’s inability to cope with overflow. They have added that a holding tank system scheduled for completion in 1987 will correct the problem.


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