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EPA fines Mission Foods $60,000 for soybean oil spill in Southern California

Release Date: 9/29/2003
Contact Information: Wendy L. Chavez, (415) 947-4248

SAN FRANCISCO -- Mission Foods Corporation has agreed to pay the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency $60,000 for a spill incident of approximately 7,000 gallons of soybean oil from its Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. plant, of which an estimated 1,500 gallons reached a nearby storm drain.

The company's holding tank released approximately 167 barrels of soybean oil on Sept. 28, 2000 and entered a storm drain 40 feet away from the plant, which flows into the Santa Ana River.

The facility also failed to have an oil spill response plan at the Rancho Cucamonga plant and at three other Mission Foods facilities in Los Angeles, Fresno and Tempe, Ariz.

"Vegetable based oil, like petroleum oil, can cause serious environmental damage -- wildlife can be harmed and waters polluted," 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."

The company reported that a tank level indicator on one of its three larger tanks failed causing the tank to overfill and excess oil to flow to a secondary container. The oil flowed through an improperly grouted hole in the secondary container.

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, Mission Foods has taken steps to remedy the vulnerabilities that led to the spill and has prepared spill response plans for the four facilities.

The Rancho Cucamonga plant manufactures corn and flour tortillas and corn chips -- an operation that uses large quantities of cooking oil. The plant contains three 14,500 gallon tanks and one smaller tank, for a total of 57,000 gallons of storage capacity.