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Delay in Actions Called for in Agreement with EPA Costs Compania Petrolera Caribe

Release Date: 03/17/2004
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(#04042) New York, N.Y. -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has fined Compania Petrolera Caribe, which operates gas stations in Puerto Rico, for not meeting the terms of a 1999 settlement that required the installation and operation of an advanced automatic leak detection monitoring system for its underground storage tanks (USTs).

As part of the settlement, Compania Petrolera Caribe agreed to pay a $15,000 penalty and to properly and permanently close, within a time frame specified in the agreement, 13 out-of-service USTs at the following seven facilities it owns in Santos Vazquez, San Sebastian (1 USTs), San Sebastian (3 USTs), Maricao (3 USTs), Garaje Doitteau Cabo Rojo, Boqueron (2 USTs), Torrefaccion, San Sebastian (1 UST), Barbosa, Hato Rey (1 UST) and Ponce (2 USTs). The closure of these substandard tanks will prevent releases of their contents into the environment. Permanent closure regulations require Compania Petrolera Caribe to perform a site assessment to measure for the presence of releases and to cleanup any releases that are found.

"USTs have historically been the nation's number-one source of ground water contamination, with over 30,000 leaks and spills from tanks reported annually," said Jane M. Kenny, EPA Regional Administrator. "Compania Petrolera Caribe's tanks store thousands of gallons of petroleum products and need to be in compliance with UST requirements."

"This action sends a message to owners and operators of underground storage tanks in Puerto Rico," Ms. Kenny continued. "EPA will not go away until UST owners and operators satisfy their obligations under the terms of settlements with the Agency aimed at protecting the environment and public health."

Under the previous settlement in 1999, Caribe had agreed to spend at least $269,000 to purchase, install and operate the advanced leak detection monitoring system at their facilities in Puerto Rico. The company had failed to meet the deadline for completion of this work at 8 of its 14 facilities on the Island. As a condition to entering into the present settlement, EPA insisted that the company spend the required amount of money to purchase, install and operate the advance leak detection monitoring system. These systems are now operational at all its active facilities on the Island. In addition, the company has demonstrated compliance with UST upgrade requirements, which include corrosion protection, spill and overfill prevention measures.

Leaking underground tanks pose a threat to ground water, surface water and soil. Underground storage tanks range in capacity from a few hundred to 50,000 or more gallons, and are used to store gasoline, diesel, heating oil and other fuels, waste oil and hazardous substances at gas stations, marinas, government facilities and large industrial sites. Petroleum releases can contaminate water making it unsafe or unpleasant to drink. Releases can also result in fire and explosion hazards and produce short and long-term health effects.

EPA regulations requiring underground storage tank upgrading took effect in December 1998 and the Commonwealth received authorization to run its UST program in lieu of the federal UST program in 1997. EPA can enforce requirements in the authorized Puerto Rico program.