NOTE: This story is an updated version of one that first appeared online Monday evening.
Word from Santa Barbara County Fire spokesman Captain Eli Iskow went out Monday evening that another leak at a Greka Oil lease in North County has been discovered. Upon inspection of the leak, Greka employees found that a pump in a 200,000-gallon oil tank was pumping oil and produced water into a malfunctioning three-inch underground pipe. The severity of this one was reportedly such that clean-up workers – who were in the general vicinity as a result of a previous spill – were evacuated because spilled fluids could have potentially undermined the integrity of a dirt berm the workers were standing on and an adjacent hillside. The county issued a stop work order for the entire facility, but Greka employees have since turned the pump off, repaired the pipeline and replaced the fluid-saturated dirt around the device. Greka also rebuilt the dirt berm. These actions resulted in the county repealing the stop work order for all production except that directly related to this particular leak
In neither report on the matter did Iskow estimate how much of either substance had leaked. In Tuesday morning’s report, however, he did note that the County Petroleum Inspector noted “several other smaller leaks and issues,” including a vapor leak that has been brought to the attention the Air Pollution Control District.
On Tuesday afternoon, Greka representatives countered statement by calling the incident “minor” and deeming Iskow’s version of the events “totally erroneous” and “simply beyond wrong.” In the statement, Greka President Andrew deVegvar said that Iskow’s statement was characteristic of treatment he has previously claimed his company has suffered at the hands of the county. “They were defamatory in that they blew the situation out of all proportion and accused Greka of creating a dangerous situation. They were just one more example of the county’s arbitrary and selective enforcement directed at Greka,” deVegvar said. He specifically refuted that the spill posed any threat to the hillside, that there was an evacuation, and that a stop work order was issued. On the last point, he claims that a mere “notice to comply” was issued.
“In fact,” deVegvar’s statement continued, “the only hillside in that area that has been compromised was on the Shell lease at Palmer Road and Dominion Road where there was a spill a month or so ago, and you haven’t seen the fire department issuing doomsday statements about it.”
The Palmer Road Bell Lease facility became the site of one of the larger recent spills on December 7, when an 86,000 gallons flowed onto land and into a tributary of the Sisquoc River.