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EPA Settles Enforcement Case with Cumberland Farms; Agreement Includes $2 Million Project to Improve Air Quality

Release Date: 06/25/2002
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office (617) 918-1008

BOSTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced that it has settled a complaint with Cumberland Farms Inc. for violations of the federal Clean Air Act at 80 of its gasoline stations in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The case was initiated in partnership with Massachusetts environmental officials.

Under the terms of the consent agreement and order, the Canton-based company will pay a cash penalty of $90,000 and perform a supplemental environmental project (SEP), costing $2 million, that will reduce the amount of smog-causing compounds released into New England's air.

The environmental project calls for Cumberland Farms to upgrade its vapor recovery systems by replacing, at a minimum, 156 older gasoline dispensers with new, more-efficient "vacuum-assist" dispensers at 42 gas stations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. The new dispensers will substantially reduce gasoline vapors known as volatile organic compound (VOC), as well as benzene releases, when customers gas up their cars at Cumberland Farms gas stations. VOCs contribute to ground-level ozone, or smog, pollution.

In addition, Cumberland Farms will test vapor recovery systems at its Massachusetts and Vermont gas stations more often than mandated under federal and state regulations. At its Massachusetts gas stations, the company will perform blockage tests annually rather than every three years and at its Vermont gas stations, Cumberland Farms will perform annual testing of vapor control equipment in lieu of a maintenance certification.

The SEP will reduce VOC emissions by as much as 70 tons a year. In addition, the SEP will reduce benzene emissions by as much as 1,200 pounds per year.

"The environmental project that Cumberland Farms has agreed to will be very beneficial to New England's air quality," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator at EPA's New England Office. "It shows that the company has not only corrected the past violations that led to this penalty, but also is taking steps to help the environment in the future."

"It is vitally important for our air quality that Cumberland Farms and all other gasoline stations keep their equipment in good working order by inspecting, testing and maintaining it," said Lauren A. Liss, commissioner of the of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. "DEP and EPA will continue to coordinate enforcement efforts to ensure that citizens are protected from dangerous ground-level ozone and smog."

Cumberland Farms operates more than 1,000 retail stores and gas stations in the Northeast and Florida. The Massachusetts DEP initiated the case when it began investigating several gas dispensing companies, including Cumberland Farms, in the state in 2000. EPA New England agreed to take the Cumberland Farms case because the company operates throughout New England region.

EPA reviewed five years of testing records for 50 Cumberland Farms gas stations in Massachusetts and inspected 40 of the company's gas stations in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. The investigation determined that between 1995 and 2000, the company did not fully comply with federally-enforceable state requirements for testing, record-keeping and reporting, employee training and maintenance of vapor recovery equipment.

As a result of the violations, excess gasoline vapors were emitted into the air because, in many cases, the company did not have properly operating vapor recovery systems.

Ground-level ozone is an invisible gas formed when VOCs and nitrogen oxides, or NOx, react in the presence of sunlight. Emissions from motor vehicles are the primary source of ozone-causing pollutants in this region. High concentrations of ozone can cause shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, headaches, nausea, eye and throat irritation, and reduced immune function. Long-term exposure can harm the lungs. Children, the elderly and those who suffer from lung diseases, such as emphysema, are at particular risk.

Benzene, a colorless gas, is one of the many chemicals in gasoline. Leukemia is the form of cancer most commonly associated with benzene exposure. About 90 percent of airborne benzene results from gasoline. Benzene enters the air through tailpipe emissions and through evaporation during transport, loading and automobile refueling.

Varney said that one of the cornerstones of EPA New England's enforcement philosophy is close cooperation with the six states in the region.

"This case is a good example of what partnerships between EPA and our New England state counterparts can achieve," he said. "It was a very successful case from which we will see real environmental benefits. We've worked closely with our state partners in the past and will continue to do so in the future."

For more information, visit EPA air enforcement Web site:

and EPA's ozone Web site: