Culver City Edition

Airport to pay $2.4 million for storing hazardous materials

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles World Airports will pay up to $2.4 million to settle allegations of improper monitoring of underground tanks that store hazardous materials at Los Angeles International, LA/Ontario International and Van Nuys airports, it was announced Dec. 7.

The State Water Resources Control Board, which began investigating the airports in 2011, alleged the city agency that operates the three airports did not monitor tanks and product piping, failed to install secondary containment systems and fell behind on testing of monitoring equipment.

Investigators also found that in addition to the known underground storage tanks, there were three others that were not permitted nor monitored by LAWA. Those tanks were located at LAX’s airplane crash and fire simulation facility, known as a “burn site.”

The violations for the unpermitted tanks, which were used for “fire training exercises,” made the investigation especially “concerning,” said David Boyers, assistant chief counsel of the State Water Resources Control Board.

The Los Angeles Fire Department, as well as LAWA, “should have known the tanks were storing hazardous substances that posed a risk to the environment,” he said.

The water board ordered LAWA to test the soil under the tanks, and “thankfully, there was no contamination that resulted from the violations,” Boyers said.

LAWA will pay $1.2 million in civil penalties, and $100,000 to reimburse the state water board for its enforcement costs.

LAWA may need to pay additional penalties of $1.1 million and $650,000 if it does not take certain steps to improve the facilities so that they comply with storage rules.

Another $450,000 could be levied depending on how well LAWA complies with underground storage tank requirements detailed in the judgment over five years, according to the State Water Resources Control Board.

LAWA officials responded to the judgment by issuing a statement saying that “no leaks or releases of hazardous substances were discovered with any of the [underground storage tanks] listed in the state’s settlement.”

The city airport agency has removed six storage tanks since 2011, and plans to remove more in the next three years.

“LAWA has worked with the state to strengthen and improve the overall management of its [underground storage tanks] and is committed to a strong compliance program,” LAWA Executive Director Deborah Flint said.