Oct. 20–State environmental officials issued a notice of violation to the city of Hazleton after a leak was detected in an oil storage tank at the city highway garage, Mayor Jeff Cusat said.
The city faces a second notice of violation after a staff member with the state Department of Environmental Protection spotted an unregistered above-ground diesel storage tank at the highway garage, according to a DEP spokeswoman.
While the state agency asked the city to consider hiring an environmental consultant who is experienced with a program that promotes cleanup of contaminated soil and groundwater — and a contractor for developing a remedial work plan — Cusat contends that the city has followed appropriate procedures for collecting soil samples and gathering loose soil where oil was tracked near the garage.
So far, no fines have been levied against the city, he said.
“We became aware of the situation and cleaned it to the best of our abilities,” Cusat said.
Issues about the tanks were brought to DEP’s attention in September, according to Colleen Connolly, community relations coordinator for the state agency.
A DEP inspector responded to the highway garage on Sept. 20 and observed a pair of 275-gallon above-ground storage tanks on a concrete pad. The city uses the tanks for storing used oil it collects from the public. A third storage tank had been removed.
State officials determined that a “used oil release occurred,” according to the violation notice.
When hazardous substances are spilled or released, the property owners or operators are required to investigate the extent of impact on the environment and perform a cleanup, the notice states.
To limit pollution from spreading, severely contaminated soil should be removed and stored (possibly on and covered by plastic) until it is properly disposed, officials said.
Cusat said that officials noticed one of the tanks that stores used oil had a leak. The material is eventually recycled.
Some of the residue was tracked on the property by truck tires, he said.
“When we noticed that, we immediately brought in the fire department to spray a degreaser, then collected the loose dirt and we stored it until testing could be completed,” Cusat said.
The mayor said he was told that possibly 20 gallons of oil leaked, but that the estimate has not been confirmed.
Service to residents
For years, the city provided used oil collection as a public service.
“The thing is to try and protect the environment, prevent people from dumping oil improperly into sewer grates, into streets and dirt,” he said.
During the highway garage visit, DEP officials documented a 2,000-gallon underground gasoline storage tank and a 1,000-gallon underground diesel storage tank. Both tanks are registered with the state, but a state official determined that inspections are overdue, Connolly said.
The inspection was due July 28. State officials are awaiting an inspection report from the city, she said.
State environmental officials also documented a 2,000-gallon above-ground diesel fuel storage tank that meets the definition of a tank that is regulated by DEP under the Storage Tank and Spill Prevention Act, Connolly said. No obvious signs of contamination were observed for that tank.
The state, however, will issue a formal notice of violation to the city for not registering the 2,000-gallon diesel tank with DEP, she said.
A DEP staff member “noted obvious violations” with the diesel tank that pertain to corrosion protection, block valve installation and failure to perform monthly inspections, Connolly said.
The 2,000-gallon tank must be inspected by a DEP-certified inspector, she said. The state agency will have a better understanding of potential violations when the inspection is completed. An inspection report must be submitted in 60 days.
Cusat said he takes responsibility for the missed inspection.
“I’m not sure who was responsible for setting up the inspection but obviously I’ll take responsibility for somebody missing the date,” the mayor said.
He said he’s not aware of how the DEP was alerted of issues at the highway garage, but said the city responded after learning of them.
“We properly stored the contaminated material,” he said. “We believe the process was completed.”
According to DEP, notices of violations are neither an order nor a final action. The notices do not impose or waive enforcement action. State officials will notify the city if enforcement action is appropriate, officials said in a Sept. 28 letter to the city.
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