Fuel Company and Manager Plead Guilty for Failing to Report an Oil Spill at Martha’s Vineyard Gas Station
EDGARTOWN — A Falmouth-based fuel company and its manager pleaded guilty and were sentenced for failing to report an oil spill in Oak Bluffs in June 2009, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.
Loud Fuel Co. (“Loud Fuel”), of Falmouth, and its manager Kabraul Tasha, 42, of Pocasset, pleaded guilty on Monday on one count each of Failure to Report an Oil Spill and Environmental Endangerment. After the plea was entered, Judge Cornelius Moriarty II ordered the company to pay a fine of $25,000 to the Commonwealth and put the company on probation for three years, during which time it will be required to train its employees annually in spill prevention and reporting, will be required to pay for and conduct annual environmental audits, and will pay unreimbursed costs incurred by Nancy’s Restaurant, which suffered property damage from the spill. After Tasha pleaded guilty, Judge Moriarty continued his case without a finding for two years and ordered him to pay a fine of $3,000 to the Commonwealth and go to annual training in spill prevention and reporting.
“These defendants failed to immediately report a release of gasoline, causing damage to nearby businesses and also putting customers and employees at risk of a dangerous explosion,” said AG Coakley. “It is important to hold those accountable who do not comply with environmental laws regarding oil spills so that the community and the public are not put at risk.”
“The failure to notify MassDEP, or anyone in public safety, following the release of a substantial amount of fuel at this location, created an unacceptable risk to public heath, and placed in jeopardy the property of those nearby,” said MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell.
On June 19, 2009, Tasha delivered gasoline to Jim’s Package Store, 27 Lake St., Oak Bluffs, and failed to properly connect the gas line from his truck to one of the fill-in ports at the gas station. During the course of filling that port, an estimated 50 gallons of gasoline spilled onto the ground in the alley where the ports are located, according to authorities. The alley runs between Jim’s Package Store and Nancy’s Restaurant.
Once Tasha became aware of the spill, he made limited efforts to clean up the gasoline with absorbent pads in his truck but failed to assess the full extent of the spill or to notify the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection that the spill occurred as required by law. When questioned about the spill, Tasha initially denied it. The Massachusetts Oil and Hazardous Materials Act requires the owner of a site or a vehicle to immediately report the release of oil of ten or more gallons to authorities.
MassDEP inspected the property in June 2009 after the restaurant reported smelling a strong odor of gasoline and local authorities found imminent hazard levels in the restaurant’s first floor. At the request of the MassDEP, Loud Fuel hired a Licensed Site professional to clean up the property and submitted a report outlining the immediate response actions it took to remediate the damage.
The charges are 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 consists of 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.
Indictments were returned against Tasha and Loud Fuel on July 27, 2010 in Dukes County Superior Court. The defendants were arraigned in Dukes County Superior Court on September 28, 2010. The defendants pleaded guilty and were sentenced on Monday.
Assistant Attorney General Andrew Rainer, Chief of Attorney General Coakley’s Environmental Crimes Strike Force, prosecuted the case, with assistance from attorney Daniel Licata. Jaime Goncalves and Dan Crafton of MassDEP’s Emergency Response Unit and MassDEP Attorney Rebecca Tobin, along with members of the Massachusetts Environmental Police, investigated this case.