Collaboration in Civic Spheres

$95K fine eyed for oil spill safety risk at Richmond Beach

by September 13th, 2012

The Seattle-based Region 10 office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached a proposed consent agreement and final order with California-based Paramount Petroleum Corporation including a $95,606 civil penalty for what the agency asserts is the company’s failure to provide federally-required protections against the risk of an oil spill from a 28 million gallon storage tank at its Richmond Beach facility on Puget Sound near the City of Shoreline. Paramount makes and markets asphalt and operates a number of refineries and related sites. As the Seattle Times has reported, at Richmond Beach is “an aging asphalt plant and oil tank farm” owned by a Washington state affiliate of Paramount, on property that has been proposed by the company for a controversial and large-scale mixed-use retail and housing development called Point Wells. That development remains mired in a legal dispute related to potential traffic impacts.

The order states that an inspection by EPA in late August 2009 revealed Paramount’s failure to provide what’s called “general secondary containment” or safety measures against a potential oil spill from the big tank into Puget Sound. That’s one of a number of such requirements mandated for onshore oil facilities near water, under federal Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure rules that are coupled to the U.S. Clean Water Act.

EPA officials note that federal law 40 CFR 112 requires bulk oil containers like that at Paramount’s Richmond Beach site, must “provide a secondary means of containment for the entire capacity of the largest single container plus additional capacity to contain precipitation. Dikes, containment curbs, and pits are commonly employed for this purpose. You may also use an alternative system consisting of a drainage trench enclosure that must be arranged so that any discharge will terminate and be safely confined in a catchment basin or holding pond.” In addition, “the entire containment system, including walls and floor, must be capable of containing oil and must be constructed so that any discharge from a primary containment system, such as a tank, will not escape the containment system before cleanup occurs.”

The penalty amount was almost twice as much as the required $50,000 minimum for “major non-compliance” involving the largest size class storage facility under the applicable section of EPA’s Clean Water Act civil penalty policy.

The order says Paramount neither admits nor denies the EPA allegations but does waive its right to contest or appeal the final order, and agrees to the proposed $95,606 civil penalty. That penalty would not be finalized until the close of public comment and review of any comments received.

Region 10 announced announced the proposed settlement online recently and provided notice that public comment on the proposed Consent Agreement and Final Order is open until September 18.

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