Alarm Failure Results in Diesel Spill into Souhegan River

Draper Energy Co., Inc. of New Hampshire and Energy North Inc., (ENI) of Massachusetts face a combined penalty of up to $177,500 for violations of the Clean Water Act resulting from a March 2009 oil spill in the Souhegan River.

A recent EPA complaint against the companies asserts that they failed to fully implement an oil spill prevention plan. Draper is currently the owner, and ENI is the operator of the facility at which the violations occurred.

The complaint details that the facility in Milford, N.H., illegally discharged over 1,500 gallons of diesel oil into the nearby Souhegan River. The spill resulted from a ruptured pipe connecting an above-ground storage tank containing the diesel to a pump. The automatic discharge alarm failed to alert anyone of the discharge and the oil flowed into the soil beneath the pump, into a culvert that runs beneath the facility, and finally into the Souhegan River, which in turn connects to the Merrimack River and eventually to the Atlantic Ocean.

Because of the alarm failure, the oil was released for almost three days before neighboring businesses noticed a strong smell and an oil sheen on the water up to 10 miles downstream in the Souhegan River. Once the spill had been realized, there was a prompt emergency response from the local fire department, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NH DES), and EPA. Both Draper and ENI cooperated with NH DES and EPA in cleaning up the spill.

Approximately two weeks later, EPA conducted an inspection at the facility and found that the owners and operators had prepared but not fully implemented a Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) plan, as required by the Clean Water Act. SPCC plans specify spill prevention and response measures at facilities that store oil above certain threshold amounts to help ensure that a tank failure or oil spill does not lead to oil reaching bodies of water.

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