Petaluma Shop Owner Up in Arms Over Soil Testing

Gene Crazat is the owner of G & C Auto Body on Lakeville and has been fined $55,000 for failing to conduct groundwater testing under his shop


It’s not uncommon for businesses to pay for soil remediation to remove dangerous chemicals from their property before they build anything on the site.

But the owner of G & C Auto Body on Lakeville Highway says he’s victim of government bureaucracy that’s forcing him to spend thousands on groundwater testing after having received the green light from the city to build eight years ago.

“We got all the permits and removed the tank that had diesel in it,” said Gene Crozat, who owns seven other repair shops in the North Bay. “Back when we first were opening (on Lakeville), we dug down 17 feet, were told by the city that everything was fine and that we could build.”

But two years after opening, Crozat received a letter from state officials saying more monitoring was required, including groundwater testing, which would spot any evidence of petroleum hydrocarbons, a byproduct of gasoline.

“Government is so unreasonable and that's is why businesses are leaving California,” said Crozat. “They don’t think about how it will impact the businesses. They do it just because they can. Because they don’t close down and they don’t go out of business."

The county and the state both say Crozat ignored their orders to test the groundwater under his shop for years and have slapped him with $55,000 in fines in the process.

“The People of Sonoma County are entitled to know that their water is clean,” District Attorney Ravitch said in a prepared statement. “That means that individuals and businesses must take care to investigate and clean up underground storage tank sites quickly and completely."

Since Crozat has agreed to conduct groundwater testing, the state has suspended most of the fines. Still, the work will cost him $20,000, putting a dent in his bottom line. However, he doesn’t anticipate having to close the shop to do the work, which he hopes to complete over the next couple of months.

Barry Kruse December 17, 2012 at 05:11 PM
Wow, so even after finally getting the green light from our ridiculous bureaucratic process to build, they still came after him 2 years later with more requirements. Target better watch out. They'll be making up new requirements for years. Is the Government so incompetent that they don't know what hoops to make people jump through before the fact? Or do they just randomly make this stuff up to harrass people?
David Keller December 17, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Apparently G&C was notified during their application process that the soils underneath their site were contaminated. They "ignored the [state and county] orders to test the groundwater under his shop for years". So the state and county did their job in a timely fashion. An additional frustrating part of the story is that the prior property owners both polluted the site and were not required to clean it up and monitor their work. As our mothers always told us, "clean up your own mess. Don't leave it for someone else to do." How is it that the prior property owner didn't get it cleaned up? How is it that G&C, when purchasing a polluted property, didn't get that as part of their deal? Didn't they do their due diligence in purchasing the parcel?
Steve Krautheim December 17, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Thank you Mr. Keller for setting the record straight. The problem is will they believe you. I do because I have been through the process of cleaning up a site; while working for a public agency.
The Fool December 18, 2012 at 02:34 AM
And while I am sure Mr. Crozat is frustrated, regulation serves the public interest. I would rather have a clean water than dangerous pollution. The degree to which businesses are leaving California is debatable, even more so than his overused assertion that upholding the law somehow equals "bad for business." Taken to its logical conclusion, we'd find ourselves back in the "Jungle" with few laws and limited enforcement. It's not worth it and his attitude is pretty immature, frankly.
Celeste Dobbins December 18, 2012 at 09:08 PM
It is not right to approve a building and then ask for further testing. It's the "after the fact" that makes this wrong. I dont know about you , if I had to pay $20,000 for testing on already approved property , I'd be out of business. This is just wrong!


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