LOS ANGELES (CN) - ConocoPhillips storage tanks dumped 1 million gallons of gasoline into groundwater for years, but the company concealed "what may be the largest gasoline spill of its kind in decades," neighbors of the Los Angeles facility say in Superior Court.
The plaintiffs say the company knew about subsurface pipe deterioration in 2005 and possibly as early as 1996. The leaks began in 1987 when Unocal owned the tank farm, and the continuing spills created a large underground "contaminate plume" that spread to neighboring properties, according to the complaint.
Because ConocoPhillips has not acknowledged the severity of the contamination and its own part in it, its cleanup efforts have been inadequate, the neighbors say.
The company approached its neighbors in 2006 and asked them to sign access and license agreements so it could test the soil and water for carcinogens such as benzene. The plaintiffs say Conoco already knew the land was contaminated, and to what extent, but did not tell its neighbors.
Lead plaintiff Zwulon Zelikowski, who says his office building is vacant now because of the contamination, is not a native English speaker. He says he signed Conoco's agreement in good faith, not knowing it was a waiver of claims.
He says the document should be declared void, and that he did not become aware of the contamination until 2007.
ConocoPhillips has been dodging the Water Quality Control Board and other government agencies since the early 1990s, according to the 114-page complaint.
Zelikowski and two co-plaintiff businesses seek damages for fraud, negligence, private and public nuisance, and trespass. They also seek declaratory relief, rescission of the agreements they signed, and an injunction.
They are represented by John Campbell with of Campbell, Volk & Lauter of San Diego.
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