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Clean Up SM's Drinking Water, EPA Tells 13 Oil Companies

By Lookout Staff

Th U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday assured the continued flow of clean drinking water in Santa Monica by ordering 13 oil companies to help replace water contaminated by a gasoline additive in the city's aquifer in West Los Angeles.

The parties - which were found to be contributing to the contamination -- will join the Shell Oil Company, which was ordered by the agency and the LA Regional Water Quality Control Board in September to continue to pay Santa Monica $3 million a year to replace most of the city's water supply.

"We believe it's important in this case to require those who have contaminated a community's drinking water to provide replacement water," said Julie Anderson, director of the EPA's regional Waste Management Division. "The next step is to determine the best means to remediate the contamination and restore the water basin."

The water in the Charnock Sub-Basin aquifer was contaminated by Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE) that leaked from the company's underground storage tanks half a mile away in 1996. The EPA has since found that service stations operated by the parties named in the order issued in San Francisco Thursday also contributed to the contamination.

The companies receiving orders to join Shell in providing drinking water are Chevron USA Inc., Exxon Mobil Corp., ARCO, Conoco Inc., Douglas Oil Co. of California, Kayo Oil Co., Unocal Corp., Mobil Oil Corp., Tosco Corp., Thrifty Oil Corp., Best California Gas, Kazuho Nishida and HLW Corp.

Both Santa Monica and the Southern California Water Co. operated drinking water wells in West Los Angeles. With seven wells out of service, Shell, Chevron and Exxon initially agreed to reimburse the city and the water company for water replacement costs.

The agreement with the city expired on January 6. Under the EPA and Regional Board's orders in September, Shell continued providing water on Jan. 7.

The EPA and Regional Board vowed further enforcement to combat the groundwater pollution. Of the 28 locations containing underground storage tanks investigated in the area, at least 24 have leaked fuel containing MTBE, which studies have shown could cause cancer.

Clean up of the wells is expected to take at least 10 years and cost as much as $150 million.

For more information visit the EPA's Website at


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