The owner and the operator of a gas station in Milford, N.H., have agreed to pay $49,000 to settle EPA claims that they violated federal Clean Water laws regulating preparedness for oil spills, under the terms of a settlement with EPA.
Draper Energy, which owned the Snack Corner Mobil Station, and Energy North Inc., which operated the service station, failed to put in place a spill prevention plan and illegally discharged diesel fuel, according to a Complaint that had been filed by EPA’s New England office in September 2009.
As a result of a leak at the Mobil Station on March 5, 2009, approximately 1,500 gallons of diesel fuel discharged into the Souhegan River.
The discharge was the result of a break in a 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 granite culvert that runs beneath the facility and then discharged into the nearby Souhegan River. The Souhegan River subsequently 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 oil sheen on the water up to ten miles downstream in the Souhegan River. Once the spill had been noticed, there was a prompt emergency response from the local fire department, the N.H. Dept. of Environmental Services (NHDES) and EPA. Both Draper and Energy North cooperated with NHDES and EPA in cleaning up the spill.
The Mobil site has since been cleaned and the facility’s two above ground storage tanks - one with gasoline and the other with diesel - have been removed.
EPA’s oil spill prevention regulations require that specific preventative measures be taken at facilities that store greater than 1,320 gallons of oil, and could reasonably be anticipated to release oil products into a waterway of the United States or adjoining shoreline areas. These regulations help ensure that tank failures or accidental spills do not lead to oil contamination of surface waters, such as rivers or streams, which could harm human and ecological health.
SPCC plans specify spill prevention and response measures at facilities that store oil above certain threshold amounts to help ensure that tank failure or oil spill does not lead to oil reaching bodies of water.
“This situation was an unfortunate illustration of the damage that oil spills can do to our environment. It’s much smarter and less expensive to prevent oil spills before they occur,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “It’s an EPA priority to ensure that facilities handling oils take the right steps to minimize the risk of an oil spill. Companies that store significant quantities of oil must follow procedures to prevent and minimize the impacts of oil spills.”