REGIONAL – A complaint filed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency alleges that Pennywise Oil Company failed to plan or guard against oil spills and faces maximum fines of $157,500.
The federal Clean Water Act requires oil companies to have a Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure, SPCC, plan.
According to the EPA, the SPCC plan is unique to each facility but must address how oil spills can be prevented, control measures to ensure a spill does not affect navigable waters, and countermeasures to contain, clean up, and mitigate the effects of an oil spill in navigable waters.
Spill prevention, control, and countermeasure laws help ensure that a tank failure or spill does not release oil into private wells, rivers, or streams, the EPA said.
The EPA claims no plan was in place at Pennywise’s main facility in Westbrook or its bulk tank farm in Essex.
“Oil spills can do significant damage to the environment, including to neighboring drinking water wells,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office.
Possible spills from either Pennywise facility could impact navigable waters, according to the EPA.
A spill at the Westbrook facility could contaminate Cold Spring Brook, a tributary of the Long Island Sound while a spill at the Essex facility could contaminate the Falls River, a tributary of the Connecticut River.
“EPA will continue to ensure that facilities handling oils must follow established procedures to minimize risks of oil spills,” Varney said.
An EPA inspector in February 2006 identified the lack of SPCC plans at both facilities and noted that the company failed to construct containment around the three bulk storage tanks and associated transfer areas in Essex.
EPA records show there were two prior spills at Pennywise in November 2005 and January 2006 caused by overfilling tanks in Essex.
The spills were reported to the National Response Center which prompted an EPA inspection.