U.S. Sues San Francisco Over 2005 Muni Fuel Spill

Oily bus.jpg
Jim Herd
UPDATE: City, DOJ, EPA Agree on $250K settlement, see details here.

U.S. Department of Justice attorneys filed suit against San Francisco in connection with a 2005 bus yard fuel spill that released as much as 54,000 gallons of diesel gasoline into San Francisco soil and sewers -- with some of it ultimately reaching the Bay.

According to the complaint, filed on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency, personnel at the Municipal Transportation Authority's John M. Woods Motor Coach facility failed to heed an alarm triggered when its 20,000-gallon fuel tanks became flooded with storm water. The overflowing diesel fuel traveled through at least two miles of drain pipe until a Public Utilities Commission worker noticed a diesel smell at a sewage treatment plant. Coast Guard personnel, meanwhile, spotted a petroleum slick on Islais Creek.

According to the complaint, petroleum continued flowing into the Bay for several days. An inspection a year later revealed that San Francisco had not fixed its fuel safety problem, suggesting a similar spill could accompany the next storm.

The complaint notes the spill -- and Muni's failure to immediately protect against future spills --  could result fines of as much as $85,000 per day in fines beginning with the May, 2005 incident. The suit also demands that San Francisco fix its fuel storage facilities to prevent further accidents, and repay the federal government's costs in filing the lawsuit.

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