Criminal charges were filed Thursday against an Orange County oil company blamed for the oily black sludge that forced more than 100 downtown residents to flee their apartments earlier this year. City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo filed a nine-count criminal complaint against St. James Oil Co. for allegedly causing the oil sludge leak. On Feb. 20, a tarlike goo oozed from manholes, buckled a street and forced 130 residents to vacate their apartment building for three days. Fire officials reported sidewalks heated to 103 degrees. The 1200 block of South Olive Street was closed for weeks. The charges against St. James Oil are among 22 environmental suits filed in the past month against area polluters by the city attorney’s Environmental Justice Unit. [email protected] (818) 713-3730160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2“Like the residents of South Olive Street, most of the victims of these environmental crimes – children and families in lower-income communities – cannot protect themselves,” Delgadillo said in a prepared statement. “We are sending a clear signal that these communities cannot be dumping grounds for others’ poisons.” Officials with Laguna Hills-based St. James Oil did not return phone calls Thursday. According to the complaint, the downtown sludge occurred after workers injected high-pressure hot water into an aging oil well in the 1300 block of South Broadway. When the water injection ceased, so did the oily flows and bulge on Olive Street. An investigation by the state Department of Fish and Game found that the sludge had entered city storm drains and made its way to Ballona Creek, which flows into the Pacific Ocean. If convicted, St. James Oil faces a $5,000 fine plus $1,000 for each count of violating the Clean Water Act. Also, the company might be forced to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in reparation costs to the city.