Court orders company to pay $1.3 million penalty for underground tank violations
The owner of two former gas stations in northeast Pennsylvania has learned the cost for not cleaning up underground fuel storage tanks.
New York-based Century Oil Acquisition Corp. now must pay a $1.3 million federal court judgment, after failing to cleanup and come into compliance with a 2007 EPA order assessing a $193,538 penalty and requiring the closure of underground storage tanks (USTs) at two former Texaco stations in Stroudsburg and Scotrun.
"Leaking underground storage tanks pose a significant threat to groundwater, the source of drinking water for nearly one-third of all Americans," said EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin. "Protecting our precious water resources is one of EPA's key priorities," Garvin added. "Owners and operators of underground storage tanks need to know that we take our mission of protecting human health and the environment seriously."
In a 2006 complaint, EPA cited Century Oil for violations of regulations designed to avoid costly and environmentally harmful underground fuel storage leaks. An inspection of the two gas stations by EPA and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection revealed that the company did not provide required corrosion protection and leak prevention and detection safeguards for two USTs that were not empty when the company abandoned the gas stations in the late 1990s.
In a September 2007 order, an EPA administrative law judge assessed a $193,538 penalty for these violations, and ordered Century Oil to permanently close the USTs, and perform any necessary environmental cleanup. Century Oil did not pay the penalty or otherwise comply with EPA's order.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Richard P. Conaboy ordered the company to pay a $1,303,131 penalty including about $1.1 million in daily penalties for non-compliance with EPA's order, as well as interest on the original EPA penalty. The judge also ordered the company to clean up any contamination from the gas stations' tanks, and to either permanently close these tanks or bring them into compliance with UST regulations.
With millions of gallons of gasoline, oil, and other petroleum products stored in underground storage tanks throughout the country, leaking tanks are a major source of soil and groundwater contamination. EPA and state underground storage tank regulations are designed to reduce the risk of underground leaks and to promptly detect and properly address leaks which do occur, thus minimizing environmental harm and avoiding the costs of major cleanups. For more information on EPA's underground storage tank program, visit: http://www.epa.gov/swerust1/