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EPA Charges Christiansted Car Dealer with Releasing Used Automotive Oil into Environment; Agency Seeks $30,800 Fine and Orders Company to Clean Up Its Act

Release Date: 02/11/2000
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(#00030) New York, N.Y. -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has charged Tropical Cars of St. Croix, Inc. (also known as Tropical Nissan) with serious violations of agency regulations regarding the handling of used oil. According to EPA, Tropical Cars allowed many gallons of used oil from oil changes made on automobiles to seep into the ground at the company's Tropical Nissan facility at 12-A Grande Princesse in Christiansted, St. Croix. The end result was an approximately 600 square-foot "pond" of used oil one to two inches deep, which the company did not clean up until EPA inspected the facility. The agency is seeking a cash penalty of $30,800 from Tropical Cars for its actions, and ordered the company to immediately address the situation.

"The conditions we observed at this facility were alarming," said Jeanne M. Fox, EPA Regional Administrator. "Used oil contains toxic chemicals including the known human carcinogens benzene and arsenic that can have disastrous effects on human health and the health of the environment and the wildlife that relies on it. The health of Virgin Islanders and natural beauty of the Islands must be protected. This cannot occur unless companies doing business on the Islands follow all federal and local environmental laws."

EPA inspected Tropical Nissan on June 10, 1999. Inspectors saw forty-seven 55-gallon drums of used oil at the facility, several of which are believed to have released some of their contents onto soil covering a concrete pad surrounding the drum storage area. The company's failure to stop the release of oil into the environment, clean up the spill and fix or replace any leaking containers of used oil are violations of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the law that governs the management of hazardous waste and used oil. After the inspection, EPA directed Tropical Cars to collect the spilled oil and visibly-contaminated soil into drums, which currently remain at the facility.

EPA has ordered the company to sample the oil and contaminated soil it collected to determine whether these materials are hazardous wastes, and then dispose of them properly. The company must also test the layer of soil that had been under the visibly-contaminated soil to determine whether it too is contaminated. If the underlying soil is found to be contaminated, the company must excavate it, test the soil below this layer, and repeat this process until clean soil in reached. All of these excavated soils must be tested and disposed-of properly as well. Tropical Cars must provide proof to EPA when the work is complete including photographs, lab analyses and documentation of proper disposal.

Tropical Cars has the right to contest EPA's order, but has already begun some of the work required in the order.