Tuesday, January 21, 2014

BNSF Penalized for Hazardous Spill Near LA Port

By Mark Edward Nero

BNSF Railway has agreed to plead no contest and pay a fine to settle charges that it failed to report a June 2012 hazardous spill near the Port of Los Angeles, LA City Attorney Mike Feuer said Jan. 13. The spill resulted in a dangerous leak that lasted for days.

BNSF pled no contest to failing to report the release of a hazardous material and creating a public nuisance, and agreed to pay over $140,000, which includes criminal penalties, medical expenses and lost wages to a Port Police officer affected by the incident, plus reimbursement for costs borne by local agencies, as well as a donation to the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium.

BNSF is also required under the agreement to conduct hazardous materials training for designated employees, including an employee at the corporate level who will oversee hazardous materials issues.

The Environmental Justice and Protection Unit of Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer filed the criminal charges against BNSF Railway in June 2013 in response to the spill. The case marks the first time BNSF has pled to criminal charges in California. “Businesses dealing with hazardous materials have a responsibility to protect the public and safeguard the environment,” Feuer said.

According to Feuer’s office, several drums containing hazardous materials including phenol, cresylic acid and other corrosives that cause inhalation hazards leaked from barrels being transported in a cargo container under the control of BNSF bound for China between June 23 and June 29, 2012.

Port Police were eventually alerted to the spill while investigating a report of an abandoned container at the location. The responding Port Police officer was overcome by fumes and later hospitalized.