LONG BEACH, CA - The California Water Resources Control Board said Jan. 26 it has reached a multi-million dollar settlement with the city of Long Beach for violation of regulations governing the storage of petroleum and waste oil in underground tanks, the Los Angeles Times reported. 

According to the board, Long Beach did not install required leak-prevention equipment and adequately monitor 40 of its underground storage tank facilities. Many of the underground tanks were located at city fire and police stations, the board said. The regulations that the city allegedly violated are designed to protect groundwater from pollution. 

The city has not denied responsibility for the violations. City Attorney Bob Shannon indicated that the city's inaction was a reflection of city officials' budget priorities. "Their position was that the city did not have the money to make the necessary repairs, and that if it had spent the money it would have had to come from somewhere else, such as decreasing the level of law enforcement," he said. "So a choice was made. Now it's time to move on." 

The settlement calls for a city penalty of $1.5 million in cash within 30 days, in addition to $200,000 in reimbursement for the board's costs of enforcement, the L.A. Times reported. Moreover, the city must provide $2.5 million in financial assurance that will become due if the city breaks the storage tank laws again in the next five years. Long Beach will be credited $2 million against additional penalties for steps taken to improve compliance, including the development of a program to monitor and fix leaky storage tanks. 

The city was also required to take out a full-page ad in the local newspaper detailing the terms of the settlement and mapping the tanks involved.

The water board, with support from the U.S. EPA, plans to review as many as 500 local, state and federally owned underground storage tank facilities.