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Two Massachusetts Educational Institutions Face Penalties for Oil Spill Prevention and EPCRA Violations

Release Date: 03/12/2009
Contact Information: :Paula Ballentine – (617) 918-1027

(March 12, 2009) As part of an ongoing effort to prevent illegal oil spills to New England waters, EPA has stepped up its enforcement against facilities with oil storage capacity that fail to adequately prepare and fully implement spill prevention plans as required by the federal Clean Water Act, and fail to file hazardous chemical inventory forms with proper authorities, as required the federal Emergency Planning and Right-to-Know Act.

EPA is currently seeking penalties for such violations against two educational institutions: Atlantic Union College of Lancaster, MA and Phillips Academy of Andover, MA. Atlantic Union College also had an illegal spill, resulting in a discharge of oil to a brook that may have been preventable if a Spill Prevention Control & Countermeasure (SPCC) plan had been implemented as the facility. Both schools could face penalties up to the statutory maximums which, for Atlantic Union College, could be up to $177,500 for the CWA violations and up to $32,500 per day for the EPCRA violations. For Phillips Academy, the penalty could be up to $157,500 for CWA violations and up to 32,500 per day for the EPCRA violations.

The spill from Atlantic Union College was discovered on August 4, 2008 by a resident in the South Lancaster, MA area who observed a sheen on an brook that feeds into the Nashua River. The spill originated from a 500 gallon tank in Atlantic Union’s power house and was discharged through multiple drains in the power house’s cement floor. Those drains released directly the brook that flows into the Nashua River.

Both educational institutions had been found, upon inspection by EPA, to not have an SPCC plan as required by the Clean Water Act’s Oil Pollution Prevention regulations, nor to have filed the required Tier II hazardous chemical inventory forms with the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), State Emergency Response Commission and local fire department, as required by EPCRA. Phillips Academy has since prepared an SPCC plan and filed the requisite Tier II form.

Prior Regional outreach had been offered to both Colleges, Universities and K – 12 Schools on these regulatory programs, and EPA correspondence reveals that Atlantic Union College and Phillips Academy had been contacted as part of those outreach efforts.

“Every year, thousands of gallons of oil spilled from small oil storage facilities pollute New England rivers and streams,” said Ira Leighton, Deputy EPA Regional Administrator. “SPCC plans are critical efforts to prevent these spills and all facilities subject to the rule need to take appropriate action to ensure full compliance.”

The SPCC regulations are designed to prevent oil spills or leaks into our Nation’s surface waters from facilities, including schools, and contain them if they do occur. The regulations apply to facilities with an above-ground storage capacity of more than 1,320 gallons, or a total completely buried storage capacity of more than 42,000 gallons, and require the preparation, implementation and regular review of SPCC plans. The plans ensure that measures are in place to prevent leaks and spills from impacting navigable waters. For example, facilities are required to have secondary containment, such as cement floors and dikes surrounding a storage tank, to capture any oil released from the tank.

The regulations promulgated under EPCRA are designed to inform emergency responders and the local community about hazardous chemicals, such as oil, stored on site at facilities such as these institutions.

More information can be found at:

Federal oil spill prevention requirements (http://epa.gov/oilspill/spcc)
Oil spill prevention in New England (http://www.epa.gov/region1/topics/emergencies/oilspills.html)
For more information on EPCRA enforcement in New England (epa.gov/ne/enforcement/epcra)