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EPA fines Arizona farm $11,000 for diesel oil spill

Release Date: 9/30/2003
Contact Information: Wendy L. Chavez, (415) 947-4248

SAN FRANCISCO -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today fined the landowner and the operator of a Cibola, Ariz. farm $11,000 for a diesel oil spill that reached the Colorado River in 2002.

Landowner Wayne Sprawls Family Trust and Red River Farms estimated that on Jan. 5, 2002 approximately 564 gallons of diesel oil, or 13.5 barrels, drained from a storage tank and reached the Colorado River 30 feet away.

EPA officials responded to the spill and arranged for soil cleanup and set up booms along the river to protect the local drinking water supplies and the Cibola Wildlife Refuge downstream.

The farm also failed to have an oil spill response plan.

"Oil spills can cause serious environmental damage -- drinking water can become contaminated and wildlife can be harmed," said Keith Takata, director of the EPA's Superfund Division for the Pacific Southwest. "A good prevention plan helps to prevent spills in the first place, and lessens environmental impacts caused when accidents occur."

Two hunters noticed a strong odor of fuel coming from the Colorado River and notified the California Department of Fish and Game and the La Paz county sheriff's office, who discovered that the piping connecting the diesel tanks and the irrigation pump was disconnected. Red River Farms and the landowner claimed that the spill was a result of vandalism.

Spill prevention regulations require non-transportation related facilities that store large amounts of oil to have a spill prevention plan that addresses the facility's design, operation, and maintenance procedures to prevent spills from occurring. The plan must also include countermeasures to control, contain, clean up, and mitigate any effects an oil spill might have on waterways.

Since the spill, Red River Farms has replaced its tanks with a new tank located within a secondary containment, and has installed a new fuel line within the piping. The farm has also prepared a spill response plan.

The Red River Farm operates an irrigation pumping facility in connection with farming activities. The facility contains three storage tanks that hold a total capacity of 11,000 gallons of diesel oil.