Balto. Co. to pay fine on fuel tanks

Settlement with EPA calls for $28,968 penalty, upgrade

July 25, 2008|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,Sun reporter

Baltimore County has agreed to pay a fine to settle allegations that officials didn't report a potential leak from an underground diesel fuel tank and didn't properly check and upgrade underground fuel storage tanks at 13 county facilities, authorities said yesterday.

The settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires the county to pay a $28,968 penalty and install a $90,000 computerized system to monitor the fuel tanks, according to the federal agency.

The most serious violation was the failure to report a discrepancy in inventory records for an underground diesel fuel tank at a maintenance shop in Woodlawn in late 2006 and early 2007, according to the EPA. A discrepancy in inventory records can indicate leaks, said Donna Heron, an EPA spokeswoman.

County officials said there had been a record-keeping problem, not an actual leak.

"This was one individual who was not keeping the paperwork in accordance with regulations," said Ellen Kobler, a county spokeswoman. "That problem has been rectified."

Some other violations, such as those dealing with insurance, are also attributed to problems with paperwork, Heron said.

In addition to upgrading to a computerized monitoring system, the county is beginning to replace its underground tanks with above-ground storage units, Kobler said.

"As soon as we became aware of the problems, we began working to correct them," said Ellen Kobler, a county spokeswoman.

The county agreed to check all its underground storage tanks in 2006, after the EPA found a problem during a random inspection, Heron said. By auditing its own facilities, the county avoided harsher penalties, she said.

The problems uncovered, according to the EPA, were:

* A 550-gallon diesel fuel tank at the Woodlawn police precinct station was not properly insured.

* A 1,000-gallon diesel fuel tank at the Woodlawn Fire Station lacked a mechanism to prevent it from being overfilled.

* A 1,000-gallon diesel fuel tank at the Middle River Fire Station was not properly monitored to detect leaks and was not properly insured.

* A 4,000-gallon gasoline tank at the White Marsh police precinct station was not properly monitored to detect leaks, was not properly treated to prevent corrosion and was not properly insured.

* A 4,000-gallon gasoline tank at the Wilkens police precinct station in Catonsville was not properly tested to detect leaks and was not properly insured.

* A 1,000-gallon diesel fuel tank at the Edgemere Fire Station was not properly inspected, monitored to detect leaks and treated to prevent corrosion.

* A 4,000-gallon gasoline tank at North Point Government Center, 7701 Wise Ave. in Dundalk, was not properly monitored to detect leaks, was not properly treated to prevent corrosion and was not properly insured.

* A 1,000-gallon diesel tank and a 550-gallon gasoline fuel tank at the Randallstown Fire Station were not properly monitored, insured or treated to prevent corrosion.

* Two 1,000-gallon diesel tanks at the Dundalk Fire Station were not properly monitored, insured or treated to prevent corrosion.

* Two 8,000-gallon gasoline tanks at the Essex Fuel Center at 511 Mace Ave. weren't properly tested to detect leaks or inspected properly.

* Two 10,000-gallon gasoline tanks and a 6,000-gallon gas tank at the Towson Fuel Center, 200 Courtland Ave., weren't properly monitored or insured.

* A 15,000-gallon diesel fuel tank and a 15,000-gallon gasoline tank at the Wight Avenue Fuel Center in Cockeysville were not properly monitored or insured.

* In addition to the inventory record problem at the Woodlawn maintenance shop on Johnnycake Road, a 10,000-gallon diesel fuel tank was not properly tested or treated to prevent corrosion.

The threat to public health and environmental damage caused by leaking, underground storage tanks varies with the amount of fuel that spills, Heron said.

Fuel that leaches into the groundwater can contaminate wells and pollute streams, lakes and ponds, she said. Gasoline and diesel fuel is also flammable and could be ignited, she said.

The county should have reported the suspected problem at the Woodlawn maintenance shop to the state Department of the Environment, Heron said.

laura.barnhardt@baltsun.com

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