The United States Announces Settlement To Remedy Federal Leak Prevention Violations At Gas Stations On Long Island
Court-Approved Judgment Establishes Safeguards To Protect The Public From Future Petroleum Leaks and Risk of Drinking Water Contamination
Robert L. Capers, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Judith A. Enck, Regional Administrator, United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2, today announced that the United States has entered into a settlement with Rachelann Yetim and five corporate entities through which she owned or operated three gas stations on Long Island that contain underground storage tanks (USTs). These USTs typically hold large quantities of gasoline and can cause significant environmental damage if allowed to leak. The settlement requires defendants to maintain strict compliance with regulations pertaining to the operation of USTs at those stations, submit reports to EPA demonstrating such compliance, and pay a civil penalty, which was calculated based on defendants’ financial condition. The settlement also provides for a series of penalties – including escalating monetary fines – if defendants engage in additional violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Earlier today, the Consent Judgment memorializing the settlement was approved by United States District Judge Joseph F. Bianco.
In 2014, the United States filed a federal civil environmental complaint against Ms. Yetim, her father Nedjet Yetim, and 15 related corporate entities for widespread violations of the federal leak prevention requirements for USTs at four gas stations on Long Island. As alleged in the complaint, defendants had, among other RCRA violations, failed to: monitor for leaks, provide for adequate protection against corrosion and overflows, adequately secure tanks when facilities were temporarily closed, maintain records of release detection monitoring, and provide necessary information to EPA about the tank systems. As additionally alleged in the complaint, the Yetims have been the principals of several corporate entities and have personally managed, directed, or conducted matters related to pollution and environmental compliance at the facilities. The corporate defendants, all of which are directly related to the individual defendants or were tenants at the relevant facilities, owned and/or operated the gas stations during the periods of the violations alleged in the complaint.
The evidence of public record with the New York State Department of Conservation demonstrates that there were releases from the tanks at all four facilities, each of which is located above a federally-designated Sole Source Aquifer. As set forth in the complaint, among other criteria, a Sole Source Aquifer is an aquifer that supplies 50% of the drinking water consumed within the Sole Source Aquifer’s boundaries. The Sole Source Aquifer designation is a tool to protect drinking water supplies in areas with few or no alternative sources to the groundwater resources, and where, if contamination occurred, using an alternative source would be extremely expensive. Nevertheless, defendants repeatedly failed to comply with numerous federal leak prevention requirements under RCRA.
Since the filing of the federal complaint, one of the gas stations has been permanently closed. Rachelann Yetim sought to bring the remaining three stations into compliance and cooperated with the EPA to effectuate necessary measures, which included several significant upgrades to the facilities and providing necessary information to EPA. The consent judgment with Rachelann Yetim and the five corporate entities through which she has owned and/or operated the USTs is the culmination of those efforts. Defendant Nedjet Yetim has not settled with the government and is the subject of a pending motion for summary judgment filed by the United States.
“The Consent Judgment entered by the Court is the product of a longstanding effort by the EPA and by this Office to ensure that the residents of Long Island would not be harmed by defendants’ disregard of their obligations under federal law to safeguard the public from gasoline and waste oil leaks at their underground storage tanks,” stated United States Attorney Capers. “We are committed to vigorous enforcement of the laws protecting the environment from hazardous wastes.”
“These defendants showed a disregard for underground storage tank regulations that are designed to protect against petroleum leaks,” said EPA’s Regional Administrator Enck. “Under this agreement, the residents of Long Island will be better protected from the threat of petroleum contamination to groundwater. Groundwater is the major source of drinking water for millions of residents of Long Island. It is imperative that petroleum storage tanks fully comply with all environmental regulations to ensure that drinking water is not polluted and people’s health is protected.”
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kenneth M. Abell. EPA is represented by Assistant Regional Counsel Karen Taylor.
Residence: Floral Park, NY
Fast Gasoline, Inc.
Black Realty, Inc.
TAG Gasoline, Inc.
NGRV Realty Co., Inc.
Venus Bukey Realty, Inc.
Residence: Patchogue, NY
Hempstead Gasoline Station, Inc.
Elmont Gasoline Corp.
102 Elmont Realty Corp.
Target Petroleum, Inc.
Liberty Petroleum, Inc., (d/b/a as Liberty Petroleum – RGV Petroleum, Inc.)
ASLI & Gizem Realty Corp.
S&B Petroleum, Inc.
Gizem Realty Corp.
PDE Island Park, Inc.
T-Maxx @ Petro Gas, Inc
653 Hempstead Turnpike, Elmont NY
725 Wyandanch Avenue North Babylon, NY
4305 Austin Boulevard, Island Park, NY
1278 Hempstead Turnpike Elmont, NY (closed)