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LAX Fined $2.4 Million|for Secret Illegal Fuel Tanks

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) - A Los Angeles agency reached a $2.4 million settlement with California regulators Monday over claims it broke hazardous leak-prevention laws and secretly operated underground storage systems at Los Angeles International Airport.

A State Water Resources Control Board investigation found the city-operated Los Angeles World Airports failed to report to three unpermitted underground tank systems below an LAX "burn site" where airplane crashes and fires are simulated.

The water board says investigators unexpectedly came across three storage tanks containing the hazardous runoff from the simulated airport emergencies, including burned aviation fuel and other petroleum-based fuels.

"Both LA World Airports and the local agency responsible for permitting the tanks, in this case the Los Angeles City Fire Department, should have known the tanks were storing hazardous substances that posed a risk to the environment and should have been permitted," David Boyers, water board assistant chief counsel, said in a statement.

Los Angeles World Airports, which operates LAX and LA/Ontario International, will pay $1.2 million in fines. The rest of the penalty will be suspended if LA World Airports becomes and remains compliant with California's underground storage tank laws.

While the agency failed to disclose the underground storage tanks, water board investigators say they found no evidence of soil contamination near the unpermitted tanks.

The agency was also cited for late testing of monitoring equipment, failure to monitor tanks and product piping and failure to install secondary containment.

Under the settlement's terms , the agency did not have to admit to the water board's accusations. The agency did agree to put $650,000 toward environmental improvements at the airports it manages.

The water board began its investigation of the agency in 2011 after accusations that the agency mismanaged nine underground tanks at several of the airports it operates.

This is the third penalty issued by the water board since the Government Owned and or Operated Tanks Initiative began in 2010. In July, the water board reached a $1.35 million settlement with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency for failing to monitor underground tanks.

LA World Airports executive director Deborah Flint told Courthouse News, "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."

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