Google flagged for inflicting environmental harm

It's hardly Bhopal, but recent news from Google is disturbing nonetheless, if only because of the high environmental standards Google sets for itself. CNET reports that in a recent filing with the SEC, Google disclosed that it is currently being investigated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over a chemical leak in one of its smaller data centers.

While Google was careful to point out that the leak occurred in a data center it acquired along with DoubleClick (so it's not a real Google data center), it also admitted that something untoward may have happened. The statement reads:

In February 2009, we learned of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) investigation into an alleged release of refrigerant at one of our smaller data facilities, which we acquired from DoubleClick, and the accuracy of related statements and records. We are cooperating with the EPA and have provided documents and other materials. The EPA investigation could result in fines, civil or criminal penalties, or other administrative action. While we currently believe this matter will not have a material adverse effect on our business, consolidated financial position, results of operations, or cash flows, we have noted it in accord with Securities and Exchange Commission regulations that call for disclosure of certain environmental proceedings that may result in monetary sanctions of $100,000 or more.

Looks like no matter how green the company, accidents happen. And Google is no exception. Still, for a firm that just won a patent for a floating data center and tons of PR for its goat-mowing initiatives, the incident is a disappointment to say the least.

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