Jiffy Lubes fined for environmental violations

Two Palo Alto oil-change sites among those found negligent by Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office

The owner of 14 Jiffy Lube sites in Santa Clara County, including two in Palo Alto, reached a settlement with the county District Attorney's Office Feb. 17 and was fined more than $130,000 after admitting to a slew of environmental-regulation violations, the DA's office announced Tuesday.

The franchise owner, M. C. LLC, admitted it failed to properly mark, contain and transport hazardous waste.

Two Jiffy Lube locations in Palo Alto, at 4195 El Camino Real and 4201 Middlefield Road, and one in Mountain View, at 1141 El Camino Real, were among the sites found to be negligent.

The county prosecuted M. C. LLC because Jiffy Lube has repeatedly been sued by the state and is considered a repeat offender, officials stated. The owners, who bought the franchise in 2005, originally claimed they weren't aware of violations.

"That's not an excuse: You should have known, and you should have been diligent," Deputy District Attorney Nahal Iravani-Sani said.

The violations were discovered between 2008 and 2010 during routine inspections by the Santa Clara Department of Environmental Health's enforcement arm, the Hazardous Materials Compliance Division.

The agreement also requires M. C. LLC to implement a training program for staff, implement an internal program to ensure environmental compliance, and submit all stores to inspection. M.C. LLC must also rehire an environmental-compliance auditor who was previously laid off.

"Penny wise, pound foolish. They thought they were saving money, and it came back to bite them," Iravani-Sani said.

M. C. LLC was cooperative with the investigation and admitted to the violations, according to Irvani-Sani. Jiffy Lube will be required to show compliance with the terms of the settlement nine to 12 months after the investigations.

"We don't want to be babysitting them. ... We want to be proactive and pre-empt possible dangers of hazardous-materials violations," she said.

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Like this comment
Posted by slap on the wrist?
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 22, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Sounds like a trivial fine for a multiple and repeated offender. Why did they get off so easily? We need a 3 strikes and you're out law for environmental crimes.

Like this comment
Posted by Joe D
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 22, 2011 at 5:05 pm

They did not LABEL their waste oil containers! OMG! Did they actually DO anything wrong or just been made an example of? Did oil go into the sewage system, or get poured on the ground?

The laws they violated were ADMINISTRATIVE in nature. So while this business that pays taxes was not dotting an i or crossing a t, some yahoo working on his own car in his own driveway, was able to pour his anti freeze down the drain with NO repurcussuions, and he left his waste oil sitting in a gallon milk jug on the corner near YOUR house. Again, no repercussions, the city will pick it up.

Like this comment
Posted by Whaaa??
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2011 at 8:26 pm

> The franchise owner, M. C. LLC, admitted it failed to properly
> mark, contain and transport hazardous waste.

This doesn't sound like such a big deal. Was there any environmental damage/destruction that resulted from these "violations"?

Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 22, 2011 at 10:18 pm

Why did they plead guilty? This is probably the least that they did. Can what they did or were suspected of doing be published since it was not proven in court? I bet not.

Like this comment
Posted by Whaaa??
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2011 at 8:09 am

> This is probably the least that they did

They change oil, and do other limited maintenance on cars. There is only so much that a business like this can do. If they were dumping the oil in the bay, there would be some evidence of that, wouldn't there? And if the District Attorney had any evidence of other "crimes", then the DA would have been remiss at not charging them on these matters.

No doubt they were sloppy, but calling "not labeling an oil can properly" a "crime" is why so many businesses feel that government inspectors are more often on "witch hunts".

Like this comment
Posted by South PA resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 23, 2011 at 9:14 am

The reality is that our local Jiffy Lubes have a history of dumping used oil down the restroom drains instead of properly disposing of it. See Web Link for details.

The record-keeping rules exist as a means of indirectly catching them when they do the same thing again.

Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2011 at 11:36 am

The link above does provide a few details, but not many--

Web Link

Jiffy Lube has agreed to pay $35,000 in fines and fees after workers at its Palo Alto store were found to have dumped spilled oil and antifreeze down a restroom drain, the Santa Clara County district attorney?s office announced.

Under the settlement, Jiffy Lube International admitted that workers at the store at 4201 Middlefield Road improperly disposed of oil-contaminated mop water in June.

A customer complaint led to a visit from inspectors, who observed spilled oil and oil-saturated towels being disposed of improperly, the district attorney?s office said.

From this sketchy report, the actual amount of oil that was introduced into the sewage system is not specified, and is more likely to be in the quantity of "quarts", rather than "gallons" or "barrels" (about 55 gallons). There is only so much oil that can be absorbed in a towel, and only so many towels that a "Jiffy Lub" is likely to have on-hand.

The key issue here is whether or not the site manager was aware of the "violation", or if the employees involved disposed of the oil without his knowledge. Given that there are so many people working in this country illegally, or whose knowledge of English is so poor, or who have never been instructed in the vagaries of environmental law/compliance, that reading any of these articles provides the reader will little information to better understand exactly what "Jiffy Lube" did, how many times they did it, and who was in charge at the time.

Like this comment
Posted by South PA resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 23, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Another example of MC LLC-owned Jiffy Lube franchise dumping oil into a waterway, this time in Massachusetts:
Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 24, 2011 at 4:25 am

Calling this a witch hunt is absurd ... I've driven by these places hundreds of times and they are often no busy at all. It's labelling, it's the least they can do, and to call this a witchunt is stupid. If they hired people who knew how to write as well as they know how to get tattoos I'm sure they would have no problem. They would not be making this point about paperwork if there was not a deeper problem.

Their employees are not the brightest bulbs. One time I went to Jiffy Lube and a guy grabbed a dirty towel with grit on it to clean my mirrors. I don't know what was on the towel or in the grit, but is scratched the hell out of my mirror. Common sense says if you are going to clean something you get a clean paper towel, not a dirty one. penny wise and pound foolish, they had to replace my mirror. Lucky I was sitting right there to see it.

Like this comment
Posted by South PA resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 24, 2011 at 9:45 am

Somebody appears to have published the full press release from the DA's office:
Web Link

It sounds like the issues from a few years back were due to Jiffy Lube International, rather than MC LCC, and the problem is that the executives at MC LLC (which owns Jiffy Lube stations all over the country) decided to fire the people responsible for training their employees how to comply with basic environmental laws:
> The company had eliminated its environmental compliance
> specialist—an outside consultant—in an attempt to cut costs,
> Iravani-Sani said.

Like this comment
Posted by Marc
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 3, 2013 at 12:37 am

I was just at jiffy lube getting my $26.99 oil change and seen one of the workers dumping mop water in the toilet. I think there at it again, someone should follow up.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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