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Independent Voice

Safeway Environmental Settlement Amounts to $8 Million

Sep 30, 2022 12:00AM ● By Solano County DA News Release

SOLANO COUNTY, CA (MPG) - Solano County District Attorney Krishna A. Abrams announced on September 16, 2022, that the Solano County District Attorney’s Office, together with California Attorney General Rob Bonta and five other California District Attorneys reached an $8 million settlement with Safeway resolving allegations that the company violated state environmental laws while operating underground storage tank systems at its 71 gas stations across California.  An investigation into Safeway's gas stations – branded as Safeway and Vons fuel stations – found a recurring failure to install, implement, and operate various spill prevention and safety measures since at least March 2015. Today’s settlement includes robust injunctive terms to improve operational safety and compliance with state laws to avoid potential contamination to soil and groundwater.

“The Solano County District Attorney’s Office remains committed to the enforcement of these violations that can have an immeasurably detrimental effect on our citizens. Today’s settlement will protect the public and ensure future compliance with all regulations that safeguard the water sources that we rely upon every day in our community.” said District Attorney Krishna Abrams.

Underground storage tank systems are subject to strict regulations in California because of the potential for even a small tank leak, if undetected, to cause substantial contamination to soil and groundwater. California requires that all underground storage tank systems be designed and constructed with primary and secondary levels of containment, continuous monitoring systems, constant vacuum pressure, equipment to prevent spills and leaks, and automatic leak detectors.

Beginning in 2015, Safeway is alleged to have violated state laws regulating the operation of underground storage tanks and the handling of hazardous waste. Specifically, the Attorney General and district attorneys found evidence of recurring violations at Safeway gas stations, including failure to:

Install and/or maintain automatic line leak detectors; Construct, operate, and maintain secondary containment systems; Maintain a monitoring system capable of detecting a leak at the earliest possible opportunity; Continuously monitor and conduct required testing of underground storage tank systems; and, Properly notify local agencies of the release of a hazardous substance.

This settlement resolves these allegations. As part of the settlement, Safeway will pay $7.5 million in civil penalties, including $600,000 to fund several supplemental environmental projects, and an additional $500,000 for investigative costs. Solano County will receive $696,544 in civil penalties and $66,020 in costs.  Safeway will also be required to take immediate steps to improve spill and alarm monitoring, employee training, hazardous waste management and emergency response at its gasoline stations. For example, Safeway will employ an environmental compliance manager to ensure compliance with the applicable state laws, document any unauthorized release of hazardous waste, and submit annual reports to the California Department of Justice, among other responsibilities. 

 

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