Merced County has joined California Attorney General Kamala Harris and several other counties in suing oil giant BP, claiming environmental violations involving underground storage tanks at 780 Arco stations.
"We're holding them to the law regarding the inspection and maintenance of storage facilities," Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse II said Tuesday. "You start cutting corners and bad things happen."
Dating back to October 2006, tanks at the stations were not properly maintained and inspected, and leak detection devices and alarm systems on tanks were tampered with, Harris and the counties' prosecutors said in a lawsuit filed late last week in Alameda County Superior Court.
"Safe storage of gasoline is not only common sense, it is essential to protecting the integrity of California's groundwater resources," Harris said in a statement.
The stations are operated by BP subsidiaries BP West Coast Products, BP Products North America, Inc., and Atlantic Richfield Company.
In Merced County, the stations in question are at 3100 G St. and 1625 McSwain Road, according to county officials.
A spokesman for BP described the majority of the claimed incidents as "procedural violations."
"A small number of the alleged violations relate to the monitoring of tanks," spokesman Scott Dean said in a statement. "None of the alleged violations posed any harm to human health or the environment."
Morse emphasized the gravity of the situation.
"We're not waiting until there's a disaster in our underground water supplies. We going to hold them to comply with existing law. The potential consequences are so catastrophic, we do not want gasoline in our groundwater," he said.
District attorneys from Alameda County, Glenn County, Merced County, Nevada County, Placer County, San Bernardino, Stanislaus County and Yuba County joined in the lawsuit, Harris said.
The lawsuit follows a similar one filed last month by Harris against ConocoPhillips, which included Merced County.
Reporter Joshua Emerson Smith contributed to this report. He can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.