Tuesday, June 2, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 13

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on September 11th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 28 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 20, Issue 28

Santa Maria gas station owner settles lawsuit with county DA

By Zac Ezzone

The owner of two gas stations in Santa Maria and Lompoc is required to pay more than $15,000 in civil penalties to Santa Barbara County following a settlement agreement he reached with county District Attorney Joyce Dudley’s office.

Dudley’s office filed a compliant against Saleem Patel, who owns Spirit Gasoline on South Broadway Road, on July 1. According to the lawsuit, in March 2018, inspectors from the Santa Barbara County Certified Unified Program Agency—a division of the county’s Environmental Health Services—discovered leak-detection sensors in the gas station’s underground storage tanks weren’t working properly.

According to the lawsuit, these sensors are used to detect when liquid reaches certain parts of the underground storage tank system. If liquid were to enter a sensor, it sends a signal to personnel at the gas station and prevents the underground storage tank system from dispensing fuel until the issue is corrected.

“By raising the sensors … one can defeat, or at least greatly delay, the leak-detection system in that it would take more liquid (and time) to fill up the [part of the underground storage tank system] to a level that would send the sensors into an alarm,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit claims that during the March 2018 inspection, inspectors found that one area where the sensor should have been placed had about 4.5 inches of liquid. In this elevated position, the sensors weren’t capable of detecting a fuel leak at the earliest opportunity, which is required by state law.

The lawsuit claims that Patel violated state law by failing to maintain leak detection monitoring equipment and by tampering with or disabling leak detection equipment.

“These violations threatened our health and environment, as undetected fuel leaks can pollute our groundwater and are very expensive and time-consuming to clean up,” Dudley said in a statement released on Sept. 9.

According to the DA’s statement, Patel cooperated with authorities and agreed to upgrade equipment at his gas station in Santa Maria, as well as another station he owns in Lompoc.

The settlement agreement also includes an injunction against Patel to make it easier to enforce compliance with state law. 

Patel couldn’t be reached prior to press time.   

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