The Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday a settlement agreement with Chevron Puerto Rico, LLC through which the company will spend some $5.2 million to improve leak detection methods and operations at some 100 Texaco service stations. The company will also pay a $600,000 penalty.
“To identify potential or actual leaks, Chevron will install advanced leak detection, monitoring and alarm systems that will improve response time and help prevent the contamination of groundwater in Puerto Rico,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the EPA’s environment and natural resources division. “This state of the art, system-wide solution should serve as a model for owners and operators of underground storage tanks.”
Petroleum releases from underground storage tanks can contaminate water, making it unsafe to drink, pose fire and explosion hazards, and can have short and long-term effects on people’s health. EPA regulations require owners and operators to maintain underground storage tanks to avoid releases into the environment. In addition, the regulations require owners and operators to clean up leaks to restore and protect ground water resources, and provide a safe environment for those who live or work around these sites.
Among the violations alleged in the complaint filed Monday by the U.S. government against Chevron were failure to: provide release detection for tanks and piping, provide adequate overfill protection equipment, perform annual tests of automatic line leak detector systems and maintain adequate records of release detection for tanks and piping.
“Under the terms of this agreement, the health of people living in communities across Puerto Rico will be better protected from the threat of ground water contamination due to potential leaking underground tanks,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “I am hopeful that other owners of underground storage tanks throughout the Commonwealth will work to maintain their underground tanks to prevent future leaks.”
By March 31, 2013, Chevron must have installed fully automated Veeder-Root leak detection systems on underground storage tanks at all of its Puerto Rico and will continue operating these systems at its facilities for a minimum of five years.
This automated system, which will cost approximately $1.8 million, detects contaminants before they enter the environment, provides a more protective method of release detection than other methods, such as the ground water or vapor monitoring currently employed by Chevron. Chevron will provide quarterly reports to EPA regarding its operation of these systems, and will be required to provide information regarding Chevron’s operation of the systems upon EPA’s request.
By the same date, Chevron has also agreed to implement two supplemental environmental projects that will benefit the affected communities. The first requires Chevron to install a centralized monitoring system at approximately 155 of its Texaco service stations containing underground storage tanks.
This monitoring system will contain audible and visible alarms that will alert station personnel of leaks and other potentially dangerous events.
The second requires Chevron to install liquid sensors under dispenser pans for all of its facilities and to also connect these sensors to a centralized monitoring system. Both supplemental environmental projects require regular reporting by Chevron to EPA. Combined, the two projects will cost Chevron approximately $3.4 million.
Earlier this year, Chevron announced it will be selling its Puerto Rico operations.