BART pays Alameda County in environmental safety lawsuit settlement

Francesca Ledesma/File

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BART will split $1.275 million among Alameda County and two other Bay Area counties in a lawsuit settlement after allegedly foregoing proper environmental safety precautions, as first reported by the East Bay Times.

The lawsuit states that BART was allegedly out of compliance with several laws related to the management of hazardous waste and did not have an emergency response plan in place in case of a spill. Diesel fuel and petroleum are stored in large above-ground and underground storage tanks and BART’s operations also generate other hazardous waste.

These diesel tanks run generators at several of BART’s stations, though none of these tanks are located at Berkeley stops. Contra Costa County and San Mateo County will also receive money in the settlement.

“Many of the facilities contain large quantities of hazardous materials, at times in close proximity to commuters,” the lawsuit states.

BART spokesperson Jim Allison said BART decided to settle the lawsuit because the agency agreed it was not in “substantial compliance” with Hazardous Material Business Plan regulations.

“This is something that we agree we weren’t doing our best,” Allison said “We’ve learned our lesson to make sure we stay in compliance.”

Allison stressed that neither the public nor the environment were harmed due to BART’s alleged failure to fully meet environmental safety standards — which the lawsuit alleges has been ongoing since 2010. Allison added that although the lawsuit was filed Tuesday, BART has been in negotiations on the subject since 2014 and came into compliance with the environmental standards in 2016.

The alleged breach, Allison noted, was the result of an oversight. BART has since hired a second environmental safety officer to help maintain legal compliance. BART has also implemented additional recommendations made in a third-party audit of its hazardous waste management practices.

Jessica Lynn is the city news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @jessicailynn.