AG Racine Sues Automotive Companies for Illegal Oil Spills that Threaten the Anacostia River and District Residents

OAG Lawsuit Alleges Businesses Flouted District Environmental Laws for a Decade

Washington, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today announced a lawsuit against a group of auto repair and sales businesses located in Ward 5 for repeatedly spilling toxic oil onto neighborhood sidewalks and streets, the culmination of a pattern of environmental violations spanning a decade. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) filed suit against the owners and occupants of a property at 2201 Channing St., NE for discharging used oil into public spaces, failing to take required steps to prevent oil spills and leaks, improperly storing hazardous waste, and failing to pay previously-ordered penalties. This is the first environmental enforcement action OAG has brought against local businesses using its authority as an independent agency. In this suit, OAG is seeking monetary and injunctive relief, and penalties to the District.

“These businesses flouted the law for far too long, threatening the health and safety of District residents and the Anacostia River,” said Attorney General Racine. “My office is devoting new resources to cracking down on chronic polluters and will take action to stop businesses from violating the District’s environmental laws.”

The commercial property that is the subject of OAG’s suit is located at 2201 Channing St. NE in Ward 5’s Langdon neighborhood. The property is owned by Andrew Schaeffer, the principal of 2201 Channing St. LLC, and houses several auto repair and sales businesses, including 2201 Channing St. LLC, Right Hour Auto Sales Inc., Wave Rides, and Capitol Hill Auto Repair Inc. Several of these businesses repair and service cars, and handle and store tightly-regulated hazardous materials, including used automotive oil. Used oil contains benzene and other carcinogens, as well as chemicals that can harm or kill plants and animals, posing serious risks to human health and the environment. The property is 400 feet from a storm water catchment basin that discharges into Hickey Run, a tributary of the Anacostia River. Both Hickey Run and the Anacostia River suffer from environmental damage because of past and ongoing pollution. 

The District Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) investigates and monitors businesses activities that may harm the environment, such as air emissions and storage of hazardous waste. When businesses violate environmental regulations, DOEE issues notices of violations or directives to get businesses to correct their harmful activities. When those businesses fail to comply with those notices or directives, DOEE may refer the matter to OAG, as it did in this case for the first time under an independent Attorney General.

The District’s Water Pollution Control Act of 1984 prohibits discharge of pollutants into the waters of the District. The Hazardous Waste Management Act of 1977 comprehensively regulates the handling, storage, management and disposal of hazardous waste, including used oil. It requires generators of hazardous waste to take specific steps to prevent and contain spills, and to clean up and manage any spills that do take place.

OAG’s lawsuit alleges that since 2008, Schaeffer and the businesses located on his property have repeatedly violated the Water Pollution Control Act and the Hazardous Waste Management Act. Specifically, OAG alleges that the businesses operating at 2201 Channing St. NE:

  • Repeatedly spilled used oil into the streets and the water system: Since July 2017, Schaeffer and the businesses operating at his property have been cited by DOEE on at least five separate occasions for failing to contain the used oil on site. The companies were also cited for illegally discharging used oil onto sidewalks and streets and into the water system, which connects to a tributary of the Anacostia River.
     
  • Failed to properly manage and store hazardous waste: Businesses that generate hazardous waste, including used oil, are required to store it in closed, clearly labeled containers, and to take preventative measures to contain any spills that do occur. On at least five separate occasions, DOEE cited these businesses for improperly storing and labeling hazardous waste, failing to take required measures to prevent and contain spills of hazardous waste, and failing to respond to spills when they did occur.
     
  • Failed to make court-ordered payments for environmental violations: In 2015, Right Hour Auto Sales, Inc. agreed to pay a fine of $3,000 following a referral to the District’s Office of Administrative Hearings related to oil spills. The company failed to pay the fine in 2015. In 2018, the company entered into an installment payment plan, but stopped making payments altogether. 

OAG is seeking a court order to stop the recurring oil spills and other environmental violations, and to shut down the businesses at 2201 Channing St. NE until all violations have been corrected and the businesses can demonstrate that they are properly storing, managing, and disposing used oil. OAG is also seeking monetary penalties of up to $50,000 for each individual discharge of used oil since 2017, penalties of up to $25,000 for each day during which hazardous waste was improperly stored since 2017, and payment of the outstanding amount due to the District under a previous settlement for violating the Water Pollution Control Act.

A copy of the complaint is available at: http://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2018-08/Right-Hour-Complaint.pdf

District residents are encouraged to report suspected violations of environmental law to DOEE. Information on reporting suspected violations through a smartphone app is available at: https://doee.dc.gov/release/311-tip-app-local-environmental-violations 

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