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EPA orders CUC Saipan to prevent oil discharges at Power Plants 1 and 2

Release Date: 10/25/2006
Contact Information: Dean Higuchi, 808-541-2711, higuchi.dean@epa.gov

(10/25/06) ONOLULU – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today ordered the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation to clean up spilled oil and prevent discharges of oil at Power Plants 1 and 2 at its Lower Base facility in Saipan.

“It is important that facilities take all the measures needed, including proper disposal of used oil, to prevent contaminating the environment,” said Daniel Meer, manager of EPA Pacific Southwest Region’s Emergency Response, Planning and Assessment Branch in San Francisco. “Ocean ecosystems and marine species are easily harmed by oil spills that could be prevented with the proper planning and spill containment.”

CUC must immediately stop all oil discharges and take steps to prevent future spills. The facility will have 30 days to submit a proposal and work plan for EPA approval to clean up the site and ensure there is no threat of oil discharge to the environment from its drum storage area.

The order also requires CUC to develop a used oil management and disposal program aimed at reducing the amount of used oil stored at the facility. CUC will need to submit monthly progress reports to the EPA until work is completed. Failure to comply with the order could result in fines of $32,500 per day of violation.

In August 2005, EPA inspectors cited the facility for failing to test above ground storage tanks and for failure to clean up oil contamination. Inspectors noted the drum storage area as having accumulations of spilled oil. In October 2005, the EPA issued an expedited settlement agreement to the facility requiring the issues be corrected.

By February, CUC had accumulated about 143,000 gallons of used oil in 2,600 55-gallon drums and had nearly 500,000 total gallons of used oil on site. In May, EPA inspectors revisited the site and found drums outside the spill containment areas. Some of the drums were in poor condition and others were broken, spilling their contents onto the ground adjacent to Tanapag Lagoon. Inspectors found oil contaminated soil in areas outside the containment area and other drums that had spilled and were not cleaned up within the containment area.

Oil spills and other contamination from onshore sources can pollute and harm coral and marine life. The EPA requires near shore oil storage facilities to have their spill response plans certified by a professional engineer, and have spill prevention measures in place to prevent oil from being discharged into the ocean.

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