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A lawsuit alleging 143 Arco gas stations caused soil and groundwater pollution that threatened drinking supplies in Orange County has been settled, the district attorney's office announced.
The lawsuit, originally filed in 1999, claimed underground gasoline storage tanks at the stations leaked the fuel additive methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, into the soil and ground water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has found that MTBE, which is added to gasoline to reduce air pollution, is proven to cause cancer in animals and is classified as a "possible" human carcinogen.
The settlement calls for Arco to pay $3 million into a fund that will pay for an independent consultant to monitor the cleanup of all the identified gas stations in Orange County. The oil company also will pay $5 million to reimburse legal costs incurred by the district attorney's office, which hired two outside firms to help with the complex civil case.
Arco, which merged with London-based BP Amoco in 2000, also agreed to pay for all cleanup and bring all of its gas stations into compliance.
"We think it is a tough but fair agreement," said Arco spokesman Paul Langland.