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Release Date: 03/25/1998
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, Press Office, (617) 918-1008

BOSTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today issued an enforcement complaint to the Potter's Mobil gas station in Warwick, R.I. for spill-prevention violations and illegal-discharge violations last year.

The complaint, stemming from an EPA investigation at the gas station last October, includes a proposed administrative penalty of $40,400. The investigation was initiated in response to widespread gas-odor complaints from residents living near the gas station.

During an inspection on Oct. 7, EPA staff discovered that the gas station owner did not have a Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plan, which is required under the Clean Water Act. Such plans outline procedures and methods that a facility should use to prevent oil discharges, including construction of appropriate containment structures and training of employees in spill prevention.

EPA inspectors also determined that the gas station caused an illegal discharge of oil into Lockwood Brook, which is downstream from a tributary that flows behind the gas station.

The source of the contamination was a leaking underground storage tank (UST) at the gas station, which discharged into a drainage system near the service station. A tank-testing company hired by the R.I. Department of Environmental Management confirmed the leaking tank on Oct. 9.

"The problems we uncovered at Potter's Mobil are unacceptable and will not be tolerated," said John P. DeVillars, administrator of the EPA's New England Office.

"Potter's Mobil is an all-too-vivid example of the havoc leaking underground storage tanks can cause both to the environment and public health. And Rhode Island is no exception - there 164 petroleum releases from leaking USTs last year alone," DeVillars said. "Federal law requires businesses and public agencies to test and upgrade their tanks and, if this isn't done, I can assure you the EPA and DEM will not tolerate it."

Under EPA regulations, tanks installed before December 1988 that are not protected against corrosion, spills and overflows must be upgraded, replaced or closed by Dec. 22, 1998.

The EPA complaint comes one day after DEM announced it was re-establishing a groundwater extraction system at the gas station to remove additional gasoline from groundwater. The action was prompted by recent complaints of petroleum vapors in the neighborhood. DEM and the R.I. Attorney General's Office also filed a five-count civil complaint against the gas station owners.

DeVillars praised DEM's handling of the contamination problem at Potter's, particularly the quick response last fall when gas odors caused a torrent of complaints from neighbors living behind the gas station. "DEM deserves a lot of credit for its around-the-clock response to address this serious problem," DeVillars said.