United States Announces Settlement of Claims for Violating Federal Leak Prevention Requirements at Three New York City Gas Stations
Four defendants in a federal civil environmental case have agreed to settle claims against them arising from their violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”). The violations occurred at three gas stations that the defendants owned in New York City – two in Queens and one in the Bronx – and involve 27 underground storage tanks, which typically contain large quantities of gasoline and waste oil and can cause serious environmental damage if allowed to leak.
The settlement agreement was announced by Benton J. Campbell, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and George Pavlou, Acting Regional Administrator, United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2.
According to the complaint, defendants Sidney Esikoff Family Trust, 141-50 Union Turnpike LLC, 83-10 Astoria Boulevard LLC, and 2800 Bruckner Boulevard LLC failed to comply with RCRA’s requirements for (a) upgrading and maintaining corrosion protection on steel underground storage tanks; (b) conducting and maintaining leak detection prevention procedures; and (c) properly closing out-of-service systems and testing the surrounding area for possible leaks from the tanks. Compliance with these requirements is vital to ensure the integrity of the underground storage tanks and to prevent the release of petroleum product to soil and groundwater.
In enacting Subtitle I of RCRA, Congress declared it was a national policy to regulate the management and operation of underground storage tanks so as to minimize the threat to human health and the environment. RCRA protects the public from releases from underground storage tanks, which can harm the environment and human health if the tanks or piping connected to them release their stored contents. A leaking underground storage tank can potentially contaminate soil and groundwater. In addition, fumes from released substances can pose health problems by entering into homes or subway systems located above or near contaminated groundwater. A leaking underground storage tank can also present other risks, including the potential for fire and explosion.
As part of the settlement, the four defendants agreed to pay a $325,000 civil monetary penalty to the federal government. They also have undertaken measures to come into compliance with RCRA at the one facility that they continue to own, located at 141-50 Union Turnpike, Flushing, New York, and have agreed to remain in compliance in the future at the facility and to submit regular reports to EPA to show that they are in compliance with release detection, cathodic protection, financial responsibility, and other RCRA requirements. The settlement provides for penalties for noncompliance with these provisions.
“The defendants violated federal environmental laws by failing to take all the necessary steps to prevent or detect releases from their underground storage systems,” stated United States Attorney Campbell. “These failures exposed the residents and environment of New York City to unacceptable risks. The settlement agreement, which imposes substantial obligations on the defendants including compliance with the requirements of RCRA and the payment of a civil penalty, serves as a deterrent to such actions in the future by these defendants and others who seek to evade their legal obligations.”
“Proper operation of underground systems helps prevent the harm that petroleum can cause to our land and water, so it’s critical that gas stations monitor their tanks for leaks,” said EPA Acting Regional Administrator Pavlou. “The cost of complying with leak detection rules may seem steep, but the failure to do so often results in a costlier fine.”
The settlement was subject to a 30-day public comment period, during which time no comments were received. The settlement is conditioned upon approval by the United States District Court before becoming final.
The government’s case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Sandra L. Levy. EPA was represented by Assistant Regional Counsel Naomi Shapiro.
Facilities Covered by the Consent Judgment:
83-10 Astoria Boulevard, Jackson Heights, New York
141-50 Union Turnpike, Flushing, New York
2800 Bruckner Boulevard, Bronx, New York
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