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Prosecutors, Santa Barbara County reach settlement over oil spills in creek near Summerland

A team at the scene of an oil spill in Toro Canyon.
MTO BC Ederer
A team at the scene of an oil spill in Toro Canyon.

The county will pay $750,000 to settle the case, including money for environmental projects and monitoring.

There’s been a settlement over criminal and civil charges against Santa Barbara County over some oil spills into a creek near Summerland. The problem was related to an old oil well near Toro Canyon Creek.

In the 1970’s, the Environmental Protection Agency built a system to try to keep oil from the 1880’s era well from getting into the creek. The county was given the responsibility of monitoring it. But, the oil separator system malfunctioned, leading to oil spills in 2021, and again earlier this year.

The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s office filed criminal and civil charges to try to force repairs or replacement of the system. In a just announced settlement, the county will pay $750,000.

It includes payment of penalties, money for environmental projects, as well as for the hiring of a monitor. The county currently has a $3.7 million project underway to build a new oil filtering system to protect the creek.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.