BALTIMORE, MD (April 27, 2006) - The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) today issued a civil action and is seeking a sizeable penalty against one of the nation’s largest oil companies and its facility operator for the alleged release of more than 25,000 gallons of unleaded gasoline into groundwater and soil in northern Baltimore County.
MDE filed a fifteen-count lawsuit against ExxonMobil and Storto Enterprises Inc., operator of the corporation’s Jacksonville station, in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County for the maximum penalty allowed by law. Under section 4-417 of the Annotated Code of Maryland, MDE is seeking up to $25,000 per day of violation and alleges more than 30 days of violation for discharge of oil, failure to report the discharge of oil to MDE as required. Statute also allows for an additional $100 per gallon penalty for spills more than 25,000 gallons.
“I am confident in MDE’s actions and support the department’s efforts to find the facts and hold those responsible accountable,” said Maryland Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. “Affected residents are being provided with bottled drinking water and, in some cases, home filtration units as a precaution against health impacts, and continuing measures are being implemented to assure those impacted will recover as much as possible from this unfortunate event.”
“As promised, we are taking strong enforcement action against ExxonMobil for this catastrophic incident,” said MDE Secretary Kendl P. Philbrick. “MDE is committed to doing all that we can, not only to see that the responsible parties clean up this contamination, but also to prevent such a release from occurring again, either in Jacksonville or anywhere within the State of Maryland.”
Since the weekend of Feb. 21, MDE, which administers the state’s Oil Control Program, has responded to a significant leak at the ExxonMobil gasoline station at the intersection of Jarrettsville Pike (Rt. 145) and Paper Mill Road (Rt. 146) in Jacksonville.
MDE’s lawsuit alleges 37 days of gasoline discharge caused by a 3/16th-inch hole in a fiberglass pipe in the station’s regular unleaded containment sump drilled by a Crompco Corporation worker on Jan. 12. A MDE
review of the station’s inventory from Jan. 13 to Feb. 16 found an average daily discrepancy of 700 gallons and pipe clearances that did not meet specifications.
The counts in the Complaint include: discharge of oil product in excess of 25,000 gallons to waters of the state; failure to report and notify the department of a suspected release despite sudden loss of gasoline and unusual operating conditions; and failure to provide properly functioning automatic line leak detection. The suit also seeks departmental cost recovery as a result of increased public services during and after product removal activities have concluded.
As a result of the Jacksonville incident, MDE has directed all retail gas station owners to verify the proper calibration and operation of their leak detection systems. Additionally, MDE is proposing emergency regulations to further safeguard groundwater supplies across the state that will increase the frequency of leak detection system testing at all retail gasoline outlets in high-risk groundwater use areas and tighten inventory controls and reporting of inventory discrepancies.
To date, more than 10,600 gallons of unleaded gasoline have been recovered and approximately two million gallons of contaminated groundwater have been pumped and treated. The equivalent of nearly 3,000 gallons of gasoline vapors have been pumped from the ground as well. Recovery operations continue on a 24-hour basis and a total of 188 monitoring wells have been installed at the site and surrounding properties. Water samples have been collected at 252 properties.
In addition to the on-going sampling of existing supply wells, ExxonMobil must also provide MDE with daily status updates on the amount of product recovered and other field activities. MDE posts information on its website and regularly attends meetings of various community groups to provided updates and listen to citizens’ concerns.
The ExxonMobil hotline number for this incident is (877) 346-0302. MDE’s Oil Control Program may also be contacted at (410) 537-3442. Fact sheets and diagrams on this incident and investigations into other petroleum releases around the state may be viewed on MDE’s website at:mde.maryland.gov/programs/land/OilControl/Pages/remediationsites.aspx.