According to a report from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York, a BP gas station at 8012 Tonnelle Ave. in North Bergen was among several targeted by the federal government for allegedly failing to comply with EPA standards.
The gas station was one of 13 in the New York and New Jersey area with one or more fuel tanks that weren’t inspected properly, US Attorney Richard P. Donoghue said. All of the gas stations targeted in the suit are owned by Genesis Petroleum and its associated companies, and the defendants are being sued by the federal government for allegedly violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
The federal government claims that at the stations in question the defendants failed to install spill and overfill prevention equipment, failed to perform release (leak or spill) detection, and failed to maintain and provide records of detection monitoring, all of which are required by law.
In some instances across the thirteen stations involved, the defendants allegedly failed to secure underground storage tanks that were temporarily closed and failed to investigate or report suspected leaks or spills. EPA inspectors also observed a visibly corroded storage tank at one of the stations, though they didn’t specify which station it was.
The complaint asserted that some defendants also refused to allow the EPA to inspect their stations, and didn’t respond to their requests for information about their storage tanks.
In any potential fuel leak, people who live or work near the site of a leaking underground fuel tank can be exposed to toxic substances in the air, soil, and drinking water. Standard protocols for operating and monitoring underground fuel tanks are required by law, and ensure that the fuel can be stored safely.
The biggest risks, according to the EPA, are underground storage tanks that have been in operation for several decades, as they were installed prior to the adoption of new regulations. Older tanks are often buried in soil without modern protection against corrosion. The EPA names underground fuel storage tanks as the sole largest threat to groundwater quality.
When tanks lose structural integrity and begin to leak or spill, they can discharge toxic vapors into the air, and have the potential to trigger fires and explosions. According to the report, no public water sources were contaminated as a result of Genesis Petroleum’s alleged EPA violations.
“Failure to monitor and maintain tanks to prevent leaks can pose a serious safety risk, as the leaking underground tanks can release toxic components that can seep into the soil and the groundwater,” EPA Regional Administrator Peter D. Lopez said. “These violations are all too common, and EPA is working to ensure that we hold the companies responsible for properly managing their tanks to reduce these risks where these gas stations are located.”
The US Attorney’s Office is seeking punitive civil damages for the violations from Genesis Petroleum. The various violations all occurred between 2012 and 2016, and the federal government is seeking $16,000 per tank for each day that the 32 total tanks were found to be in violation.