Sonoma County DA settles with trucking company responsible for oil spill near Schellville

Rinehart Oil has agreed to pay $90,000 in costs and civil penalties to various county and state agencies.|

The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office on Thursday reached a settlement with Rinehart Oil and one of its drivers in the wake of a tanker spill in 2019 on Highway 121 near the Big Bend intersection.

The agreement compels the Ukiah-based trucking company to pay $90,000 in enforcement costs and civil penalties because of the spill, which dispersed as much as 4,500 gallons of petroleum onto the roadway and adjoining lands, including a shallow culvert that connects to Sonoma Creek.

“My office is committed to protecting this county’s natural resources and holding businesses responsible for harming the environment,” Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch said in a statement.

Under terms of the settlement, Rinehart Oil will pay a total of $70,000 in civil penalties, with $30,000 to the Sonoma County Fish and Wildlife Propagation Fund, $30,000 to the state Fish and Game Preservation Fund and $10,000 to the DA’s office.

Rinehart, a family-owned business established in 1959, will also pay $15,000 to Ravitch’s office and $6,000 to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for “costs incurred in connection with this action,” according to the judgment written by visiting Judge Elliott Daum for Sonoma County Superior Court.

In addition, the court document includes an injunction that restrains Rinehart Oil from violating several sections of the California Health and Safety Code for five years. These include disposing or storing hazardous waste in a nonapproved location and depositing petroleum in any California waterways.

The spill occurred Nov. 16, 2019, when a Rinehart driver — alternately named as Charles Rodney Pacheco and Rodney Charles Pacheco in the settlement — lost control of his northbound tanker while cresting a rise near Viansa Winery. The truck overturned, leaking most of its hold of petroleum.

Fuel odors permeated the air at the winery for several days, according to a Sonoma Index-Tribune story at the time. The spill took several weeks to clean up.

Rinehart Oil worked cooperatively with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention & Response at the time of the spill to clean up the mess and remediate damage, according to Ravitch. That including contracting with Simpson & Simpson Management, the Index-Tribune reported. The company covered the off-road area with a plastic tarp and excavated contaminated soil.

You can reach Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or On Twitter @Skinny_Post.

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