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U.S. and Allegheny Power Settle Clean Water Act Case Related to 1998 Oil Spill in Pleasants Co., W. Va.

Release Date: 11/13/2001
Contact Information: Bonnie Smith, (215) 814-5543

Bonnie Smith, (215) 814-5543

PHILADELPHIA – The U.S. government has settled a federal lawsuit against Monongahela Power Co.(doing business as Allegheny Power) for Clean Water Act violations related to a 19,000-gallon oil spill after a 1998 explosion at the company’s Belmont substation in Willow Island, Pleasants County, W.Va.

The Justice Department, on behalf of EPA, filed settlement papers in federal court in Clarksburg, W. Va. requiring Allegheny Power to pay a $252,000 penalty and comply with safeguards to prevent future oil spills.

The Belmont substation included three large transformers, each holding about 27,000 gallons of dielectric mineral oil, and several smaller transformers and circuit breakers also containing dielectric mineral oil. On April 11, 1998, one of the three large transformers exploded, resulting in the oil spill, which reached two nearby tributaries of Cow Creek.

Allegheny Power spent approximately $450,000 to contain and clean up the spill. The company’s efforts prevented the oil from reaching the Ohio River and nearby wetlands. Allegheny also spent approximately $6.9 million to replace all three large transformers, including $4.6 million to replace the two undamaged transformers.

Oil spills can pose a serious threat to human health and the environment. According to EPA, one pint of oil released into the water can spread and cover one acre of water surface area and can seriously damage an aquatic habitat. It can take years for an ecosystem to recover from damage caused by an oil spill.

On Jan.18, 2001, a complaint was filed against Allegheny Power citing Clean
Water Act violations prohibiting oil spills into U.S. waters. The complaint also alleged that the company violated spill prevention, control and countermeasure ( SPCC) requirements by not submitting their SPCC plan on time. SPCC plans are required to help prevent or contain oil spills and keep oil from polluting streams, rivers and other water bodies.

The proposed consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. As part of the settlement, the company neither admitted nor denied liability for the alleged violations.