Oops, they did it again. Greka Energy, the oil company whose facilities have been responsible for an increasing number of spills in recent months, has ruined yet another creek with a spill of oil and processed water.
This spill, which happened along a seasonal creek on the Firestone Vineyard property off of Zaca Station Road, appears much like the Palmer Road spill of 33,600 gallons on December 7 , according to county fire spokesman Eli Iskow, who was on the scene Saturday morning. The leak was caused by a pump failure, but – exactly like the Palmer Road incident – the alarm also failed, so a half-mile of the creek is already contaminated. “The oil spill we’re looking at is a significant spill, similar in appearance to the Palmer Road spill, at least a half a mile long in a creek,” Iskow explained.
Ironically, the spill comes less than 24 hours after state Assemblymember Pedro Nava held a multi-agency informational hearing over Greka’s recently disastrous record. Nava’s hearing in Santa Barbara on Friday brought together the various federal, state, and county agencies that respond to oil spills in an attempt to assess whether anything punitive or preemptory could be done on the state legislative level. Across the board, the message was that Greka, which came to the county in 1999, is behind almost every incident that these agencies handle, despite there being another 20 or so more oil companies in Santa Barbara County. A rep from the Environmental Protection Agency even said that every time his agents respond to a Greka incident, they always find at least one more violation. The hearing room was filled to the brim with onlookers -mostly Greka employees, who showed up in force to display that they were a family company that didn’t deserve harsh treatment – that the city fire department had to enforce capacity limits.
Another dash of unfortunate irony is that the spill happens on the Firestone Vineyard, which was planted and owned, until recently, by 3rd District County Supervisor Brooks Firestone. (Calls were made to both his Santa Barbara and Solvang offices, but no one was there.) After the Palmer Road spill in December, there was an attempt at the county Board of Supervisors to punish Greka immediately and even stop their business in the county. But Firestone, along with fellow county supervisors Joni Gray and Joe Centeno, urged a delay in such a strategy and pushed for the matter to be scheduled as an agenda item for some time this month.
However, Saturday’s spill came too soon for that.