S.F. wants oil company to clean wharf site

Texas oil giant ExxonMobil is polluting one of The City’s most popular locations — Fisherman’s Wharf — and it’s time for the company to clean up, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera.

Herrera filed a lawsuit against ExxonMobil, alleging the company, which earns billions in profits, failed to live up to a 1994 agreement to clean up its former fuel facility at 440 Jefferson St., in the heart of renowned Fisherman’s Wharf area. It has also failed to pay back the Port of San Francisco for $137,000 in cleanup costs the agency incurred, according to the suit filed.

“ExxonMobil has been dragging its feet for 14 years,” Herrera said. “I think it’s time for these guys to step up.”

The lawsuit seeks immediate cleanup of the site and ongoing efforts to stop any contamination. It also seeks damages and reimbursement of court costs and legal fees incurred. Herrera said he did not have an estimate of how much clean up of the site would cost.

ExxonMobil, and related companies, occupied the site from 1938 to 1992 and operated ground-level and underground pipelines and storage tanks, and fuel loading and unloading facilities at the site, which is now the Alioto-Lazio Fish and Crab Co.

More than 75 percent of tourists to The City visit Fisherman’s Wharf each year, taking in its attractions, according to the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Business owners near the site have complained about strong fuel smells, leaks and oil in the water, according to Sejal Choksi, program director with pollution watchdog San Francisco Baykeeper.

The lawsuit alleges petroleum hydrocarbons — a chemical compound that can cause cancer, according to Choksi — seeped into the soil at the site, which then enters groundwater and is washed into the Bay.

ExxonMobil spokesman Kevin Allexon said the company currently was not offering a comment on the lawsuit.

In addition to the ongoing pollution from the former ExxonMobil facility, more than 50,000 gallons of fuel oil spilled into the Bay last November from a container ship crash, fouling waters from Hunters Point to Stinson Beach. Additionally, there have been at least two multi-million-gallon sewage spills into Richardson Bay, near Sausalito, within the last year.

dsmith@sfexaminer.com

Breaking it down

A lawsuit filed by San Francisco against ExxonMobil alleges the company failed to live up to a 1994 agreement to clean up a former fuel facility that was located within Fisherman’s Wharf. The lawsuit also claims:

» The removal of a 1,000-gallon fuel tank in 1986 revealed seepage into soil and groundwater

» A truck spilled hundreds of gallons of diesel in 1990

» City and company agreed to cleanup plan in 1994, but that has not been completed

» In 2006, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board named ExxonMobil “primary discharger” of contaminants at the site

» Continued oil contamination found in 2007

Source: City Attorney’s Office

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