Source: US EPA Website, Release date: 11/16/2006
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced that an EPA Administrative Law Judge has assessed a $3.1 million penalty against Euclid of Virginia, Inc. for not taking required measures to detect and prevent leaks from underground storage tanks at 23 gas stations in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
In a 118-page decision, Judge Carl C. Charneski imposed the largest penalty ever assessed by an EPA Administrative Law Judge for violations of any federal environmental statute. The judge ruled that Euclid failed to maintain required leak detection and control equipment, and perform required leak detection activities for 72 underground storage tanks at 23 gas stations.
“With millions of gallons of gasoline, oil, and other petroleum products stored in underground tanks, leaving them unchecked can cause major soil and groundwater contamination,” said Donald S. Welsh, regional administrator of EPA’s mid-Atlantic region. “We have invested extensive resources to ensure that underground storage tank owners comply with leak detection and prevention requirements.”
The judge found that, for certain facilities, Euclid failed to comply with corrosion- prevention standards, install or maintain equipment to prevent releases of gasoline due to the overfilling of tanks or other spills when tanks are being filled. Finally, the judge ruled that Euclid did not maintain required financial assurances to respond and clean up potential fuel leaks or spills for its facilities in the District of Columbia.
The size of the penalty was due in part to the number of facilities and storage tanks and the extended period of violations. In addition, the penalty was justified by what the judge referred to as Euclid’s “high degree of negligence” in allowing violations to continue despite numerous warnings.
Although the case was prosecuted by EPA, it resulted from close cooperation with the Maryland Department of the Environment, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the District of Columbia Department of the Environment.
The gas stations involved included 14 in Maryland (Baltimore, Brentwood, Camp Spring, District Heights, Frederick, Hyattsville, two facilities in Landover Hills, Langley Park, Mitchellville, Palmer Park, Pasadena, Silver Spring, and Trappe), two in Virginia (Chantilly and Ruckersville) and seven in the District of Columbia. The full text of the decision is available at http://www.epa.gov/oalj/orders/euclidof-va-id-110906.pdf.
EPA and EPA-authorized state regulations are designed to reduce the risk of underground leaks, and avoid the costs of major cleanups. EPA’s mid-Atlantic region has focused enforcement on owners of underground storage tanks at multiple facilities. In several instances, owners of multiple facilities have entered into agreements with EPA to conduct audits of their facilities, with reduced penalties for violations discovered during such audits. For more on EPA’s underground storage tank program, including compliance assistance information, visit http://www.epa.gov/swerust1/overview.htm.