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Greka Found Operating Open Waste Pit Without Permit

An aerial view from Google Maps shows Greka's asphalt operation amid the farm fields on Santa Maria's Sinton Road and the open, unlined waste pit it was using to store toxic waste without permit.

Greka has been filling an unlined pit with hazardous waste without a permit at its asphalt refinery on Sinton Road in Santa Maria, the EPA announced today. Federal Environmental Protection Agency inspectors discovered on December 13, 2018, that the surface impoundment structure was holding water produced during the making of asphalt, naptha, and compounds known as “light ends” from crude that was trucked in. EPA has ordered Greka to make a plan within 45 days to sample for any off-site migration from the pit. Farmlands lie within 90 feet of the open pit; groundwater and the communities of Guadalupe and Santa Maria are also of concern to the EPA.

The pit was found to measure 170 feet by 445 feet by the inspectors, with no apparent engineered liner, a cracked concrete collar, and no associated groundwater monitoring stations. Google Maps shows high earthen berms built up around it and shielding it from the road. The EPA found refinery waste had been “improperly stored, labeled, and managed,” and the employees said the waste pond had existed on the spot since WWII. During the inspection, pipes connected the pit to refining devices whose waste products were known to be hexavalent chromium, lead, benzene, and other toxins. In its order, the EPA seeks information on the surface impoundment, how long it’s been there, its capacity, structural integrity, construction, and any maintenance procedures.

Greka has a long track record in the county for spills and fines (independent.com/greka), and its onetime spokesperson, Mike Stoker, a former county supervisor, now heads the EPA for the Pacific Southwest region. He recused himself from any dealings with Greka when he accepted the job from then-EPA director Scott Pruitt. The EPA media office confirmed that Amy Miller, acting director for the region’s Enforcement Division, had made the decision.

Greka did not respond to telephone requests for information about the site.

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