Multiplying original estimates by as much as ten times, Santa Barbara County officials announced yesterday that Greka Energy Coporation’s weekend spill resulted in the leak of roughly 84,000 gallons of crude oil into a creek near Sisquoc River.
The Santa Barbara County Hazardous Materials Division declared that approximately 2,000 barrels of crude spilled from the Greka Engery, Davis Tank Battery located at 5017 Zaca Station Rd. Due to an alarm failure – the second such failure in less than a month – oil flowed from a ruptured tank for more than 12 hours before the authorities were contacted. A farm worker discovered the spill Saturday morning, alerting Greka employees to the hazard.
The spill comes on the heels of a similar leak that took place less than a month ago at the same north county facility. The Dec. 7 tank failure also flowed into a nearby creek, but the oil traveled less than half the distance of the current spill, said Santa Barbara County Fire Dept. spokesman Captain Eli Iskow.
The most recent incident began only a few hours after 35th District Assemblyman Pedro Nava wrapped up a public information briefing regarding what he believes is Greka’s massive mismanagement of the Santa Maria fields over the last decade.
“What we learned very clearly at the briefing is that there is no operator in Santa Barbara County that has this kind of violation history, period,” Nava said. “There just isn’t. There are at least 20 other operators in the county who have nowhere near this kind of continued problem.”
At the moment, the Greka facility is currently shut down by the fire department until the situation is fixed, Iskow said. While Greka has yet to receive any penalties, the company could receive repercussions from the California Department of Fish and Game, the Water Quality Control Board and the County Air Pollution Control District.
According to Nava, of the three boards, the Air Pollution Control District may levy the most substantial fines nearing into the hundreds of thousands. He also said Greka has continually had problems in the past.
“Adding up all the fines that I am aware of, it’s a little over $2.5 million dollars over eight years,” Nava said. “It comes out to $875 a day […] Now keep this in mind: that’s equivalent to about 10 barrels of oil. Now, Greka generates about 3,100 barrels a day.”
The Air Pollution Control District was unavailable for comment.
Nava also said that Greka has failed to invest in the necessary machinery to prevent such spills.
“This is not a mom and pop local oil company,” Nava said. “This is a global corporation with operations in China, Jakarta and California […] It isn’t about not having the money. It’s just not being invested in Santa Barbara County.”
A phone call to Greka was not returned.
The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will discuss Greka in their meeting on Jan. 15. However, 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone, whose constituency includes Isla Vista, will abstain from the conversation since the oil spill ran onto property his family leases out.