Milford Gas Station Owner to Pay $200,000 to Settle Allegations of Failure to Report Oil Spill
BOSTON – The owner and operator of a Milford gas station has agreed to pay $200,000 to resolve allegations that he and his companies failed to notify the proper authorities of the release of 15,000-gallons of diesel fuel from an underground tank at the station, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement Vincent Cuttone, 56, of Concord, and his two companies, Route 16 Gas, Inc. and 16 Gas LLC, will pay $100,000 to the Commonwealth and $100,000 to the Commonwealth’s Natural Resource Damages Trust. Cuttone will also pay for annual environmental audits at each of the filling stations he owns for the next three years, will maintain functioning tank monitoring equipment at those stations, and will secure training for himself and his employees in the proper operation of tank monitoring equipment as well as in spill prevention and reporting. The settlement was approved today by Judge Mitchell Kaplan of the Suffolk Superior Court.
“It is critical that gas station operators promptly report discrepancies in underground fuel tank levels and are vigilant in protecting the environment against oil spills from those tanks,” AG Coakley said. “We will take prompt action against owners and operators if they fail to perform these essential functions.”
“The operator’s failure to follow-up despite clear evidence of a leak allowed large amounts of diesel fuel into the environment and delayed the clean up,” said Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Kenneth L. Kimmell. “This case is a reminder that addressing a suspected environmental problem early is essential.”
MassDEP launched an investigation at the Milford station when an employee called police in July 2008 to report the “theft” of thousands of gallons of diesel fuel from one of the station’s underground tanks. Further investigation by the Massachusetts Environmental Strike Force determined that the tank had in fact spilled thousands of gallons of diesel fuel into the ground. A review of data gathered by an automated tank monitoring system at the tank showed numerous prior discrepancies in fuel levels that, under state fire regulations, should have been reported to fire department officials months earlier.
According to the complaint filed today, further review of data gathered from the monitoring system showed that diesel fuel was released at an approximate rate of more than eight gallons per hour amounting to an estimated 15,000 gallons of spilled diesel fuel between April 2008 and July 2008. Under the Massachusetts Contingency Plan, the defendants were required to notify MassDEP within two hours of obtaining knowledge of a release of diesel fuel into the soil and groundwater.
The settlement is the result of an investigation by the Massachusetts Environmental Strike Force, an interagency unit which is overseen by AG Coakley, MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth L. Kimmell, and Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard K. Sullivan, Jr. The Strike Force comprises prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Office, Environmental Police Officers assigned to the Attorney General’s Office, and investigators and engineers from the MassDEP who investigate and prosecute crimes that harm or threaten the state’s water, air, or land and that pose a significant threat to human health.
Members of the public who have information regarding a potential environmental crime are encouraged to contact the MassDEP Environmental Strike Force Hotline at 1-888-VIOLATE (846-5283) or the Attorney General’s Office at 617-727-2200.
The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Rainer, Chief of the Strike Force, with assistance from Robert Dunne of MassDEP’s Central Regional Office.