Two Companies Targeted By EPA For Lack of Oil Spill Plans

To settle claims that it had failed to guard against oil spills at its North Bath, Maine, facility, Kaler Oil Co. Inc. agreed to pay $35,000 to the federal government, EPA Region 1 announced on Sept. 6. The same day, the agency announced that Pennywise Oil Co. Inc., a Connecticut oil storage and delivery company, faces fines of up to $157,500 for allegedly failing to plan for and guard against oil spills at its facilities in Essex and Westbrook.

According to a complaint filed by EPA's New England office in March, Kaler Oil Co. Inc., an oil delivery company, did not have a "Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure" (SPCC) plan in place, as required by the federal Clean Water Act.

An inspector from EPA's New England office inspected the Kaler facility in October 2005 and found that, in addition to not having a plan, the company failed to construct containment around its oil tanks and loading area, leading to a risk of a spill to surface waters and/or drinking wells should tank or piping fail.

According to a complaint filed by EPA's New England office, Pennywise Oil Co. Inc. did not have SPCC plans in place at either its main facility in Westbrook or its bulk tank farm in Essex, as required by the federal Clean Water Act.

"Oil spills can do significant damage to the environment, including to neighboring drinking water wells," said Robert W. Varney, EPA Region 1 administrator. "EPA will continue to ensure that facilities handling oils must follow established procedures to minimize risks of oil spills."

EPA records show that Pennywise had two prior spills, in November 2005 and January 2006. Both spills were caused by overfilling tanks located in Essex. While groundwater was impacted for both discharges, neither spill discharged to navigable waters, EPA stated. Both spills were reported to the National Response Center which prompted an inspection by EPA.

The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection's Emergency Response Unit received the spill notifications from the company, and initiated emergency remediation activities to protect the surrounding environment.

The location of the Pennywise facilities means that spills could impact navigable waters, officials said. A spill occurring at the main facility could contaminate Cold Spring Brook, a tributary of the Long Island Sound, and a spill at the Essex tank farm could contaminate the Falls River, a tributary of the Connecticut River.

An EPA inspector identified the lack of SPCC plans at the facilities in February 2006. The inspector noted that, in addition to not having a plan, the company had failed to construct containment around the three bulk storage tanks and associated transfer areas at the Essex location. Pennywise faces a maximum penalty of $157,500.

Spill prevention and control laws help ensure that a tank failure or spill does not lead to oil being released into private wells, rivers or streams, officials said. Additional information on federal oil spill prevention requirements can be found at http://www.epa.gov/oilspill/spcc.htm.

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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