Shell Pays $1.2 Million Fine for Contaminating Water In New Jersey

Shell and its affiliated company Motiva have agreed to pay a $1.2 million fine for ignoring state orders to clean up pollution from leaking underground fuel tanks at a service station, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) officials announced on Jan. 25.

The settlement stems from three distinct gasoline leaks from underground storage tanks at the Shell service station at Route 17 and Franklin Turnpike in the village of Ridgewood, Bergen County. Shell Oil Co. owned the station from 1985 until 1998, when Houston-based Motiva Enterprises LLC, a joint venture of Shell and Saudi Refining Inc., assumed ownership.

Ridgewood first detected gasoline in its water in June 1987, and shut down two municipal wells adjacent to the Shell station. DEP traced the contamination to the station. Shell installed pump-and-treat and vapor extraction systems to deal with on-site contamination. Ridgewood installed an off-site treatment system and placed the wells back into service.

In February 1995, Shell notified DEP of another discharge of 1,700 gallons of gasoline. Shell upgraded its on-site treatment systems. The following year, DEP issued a Spill Act directive, ordering the company to remove the discharge and provide enhanced treatment for the municipal water supply. The company failed to comply, and DEP issued a notice of violation against Shell on May 30, 1997.

In June 1998, Shell informed DEP of a third discharge of approximately 1,000 gallons. This time, the company shut down the pump-and-treat system, arguing it was not designed to handle the contamination.

Between May 1997 and August 2000, DEP attempted to guide Shell and Motiva into compliance but department directives were not followed. On Aug. 30, 2000, DEP issued fine notices totaling $1.6 million. After this, the company upgraded the on-site treatment systems to meet DEP requirements. It also delineated the vertical and horizontal extent of the contamination plume as the department required.

As an additional condition of the recent settlement, Shell and Motiva have agreed to complete the remediation.

"Of the total penalty, $500,000 recoups the economic benefit that Shell/Motiva reaped by evading DEP cleanup orders,'' DEP Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson said.

For additional information, contact DEP at http://www.state.nj.us/dep.

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