Oil giant Citgo will pay a $20 million fine for a 2006 oil spill that dumped 54,000 barrels of “waste oil” into rivers and wetland in Louisiana, settling a 15 year court battle, Courthouse News reports.
The spill was caused by a rainstorm on June 19, 2006 that overwhelmed a plant that treats wastewater Citgo oil fields. More than 2.2 million gallons of waste oil spilled out of the facility and into Lake Charles. It then breached a containment area and made its way into the Indian Marais waterway, the Calcasieu River, and the Calcasieu Estuary.
The wildlife and waterlife in the area were devastated by the spill, impacting people’s lives and livelihoods for years. “The discharged oil killed birds and fish and other aquatic life and contaminated aquatic and shoreline habitats,” the complaint states. “Oil traveled downriver from the refinery as well as upriver due to tidal influences.”
The spill also contaminated local water supplies and home that get their water through wells.
Citgo’s management of the treatment plant and its disaster preparedness after the spill–which happened a year after Hurricane Katrina devastated the region–are being questioned on a number of levels. The company faces a concurrent case by 14 construction workers who allege the company exercised lax management which caused the workers to inhale noxious fumes emanating from the spill while working on a neighboring plant.
During the investigation, authorities found Citgo was found to have been storing chemicals at more toxic levels than they were allowed.
the settlement money will help “restore, replace, or acquire the equivalent of” the natural resources damaged or lost from the spill, as well as pay any remaining costs incurred in the investigation. There was no information on how much, if any, money would be used to reimburse local residents for their health issues or loss of work.