Vt., Mass. Companies Face Sanctions for Failing to Prevent Oil Spills

Companies in Massachusetts and Vermont company that store significant amounts of oil are facing EPA penalties of up to $177,500 for failing to take adequate precautions to prevent and contain spillage of that oil.

EPA’s New England office alleged in a complaint filed recently that Knight Oil of Salisbury, Mass., and Rowley Fuels of Allburgh, Vt., failed to adequately prepare and maintain spill prevention, control, and countermeasure plans, known as SPCC plans. Both complaints were based on inspections by EPA staff.

The complaint against Knight Oil alleged the violations took place at its facilities at 49 Congress St. and 91 Congress St. in Amesbury. Among other things, SPCC plans require adequate containment to prevent spilled oil from reaching surface waters. Several surface waters, including the Back River, Clarks Pond, and the Powwow River, could be affected if oil were spilled from either facility.

EPA’s New England office also alleged in a separate complaint that Rowley Fuels failed to adequately maintain and implement an SPCC plan at its facility at 10 Industrial Park Road. Because of the facility’s proximity to surface waters and a municipal stormwater drain system, which both drain into Lake Champlain, a fuel-oil spill at the facility could result in fuel-oil being discharged into Lake Champlain.

In addition to facing penalties that could be as high as $177,500, the companies must take steps to bring the facilities into immediate compliance with the federal spill prevention and response planning requirements. Both companies have taken steps to bring the facilities into compliance with federal SPCC requirements.

Every year, thousands of gallons of oil spill from oil storage facilities, polluting New England waters. Even small oil spills can cumulatively have an adverse effect on aquatic life and on public and private property. Because discharges from these facilities are often to small streams and rivers that have little to no dilution capabilities, the harm can be great. SPCC plans are critical to ensuring that such spills are prevented and, if they do occur, are adequately addressed.

Federal law requires facilities that have the potential for spills take every step possible to prevent, before they occur, oil discharges to the nation’s rivers, lakes and oceans through putting in place SPCC plans. Any facility with more than 1,320 gallons of aboveground oil storage capacity and meeting certain other criteria must develop and put in place SPCC plans to prevent and contain spills, including installing non-porous containment around storage tanks.

The law recognizes that it is equally important that facilities know how to minimize environmental damage when spills do occur, and therefore requires response planning and spill preparation. To ensure that a facility can adequately respond to a spill, it must have adequate employee training and spill response equipment.

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