March 15, 2006 – In an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that stems from environmental violations at St. Thomas and St. John gas stations, Texaco Caribbean agreed to pay a $30,000 fine and will spend $112,500 to assess contamination at abandoned Puerto Rico gas stations.
EPA spokesman Rich Cahill said from his New York office that Texaco Caribbean quickly fixed the V.I. violations, which occurred in 2000.
"They came into compliance in a matter of months," he said.
He said it took more than five years to work out the deal to assess contamination at the abandoned Puerto Rico gas stations.
Texaco Caribbean violated EPA laws at the V.I. gas stations by failing to install continuous leak detection systems, as well as corrosion protection.
EPA Regional Administrator Alan J. Steinberg said in a press release issued Wednesday that leak detection systems and corrosion protection help minimize the harm a gasoline spill can cause to the environment and public health.
"The fragile ecology of the Virgin Islands requires vigilance against spills of petroleum into the groundwater, where even a minor release can cause major damage," Steinberg said.
No one could be reached at Texaco Caribbean for comment. However, the answering system indicates that Texaco Caribbean is now Texaco Chevron.
EPA discovered the violations on St. Thomas at the Intercar Service Station on Harwood Highway, the Pollyberg Service Station, the Tutu Service Station in Anna's Retreat, the Veteran's Service Station on Veterans Drive, and the Smith Bay Service Station on Smith Bay Road. Additionally, EPA found similar violations at the Texaco Station in Cruz Bay, St. John.
Texaco Caribbean agreed to assess the closed gas stations in Puerto Rico under the EPA's Supplemental Environmental Projects Policy. This allows violators of EPA regulations to offset part of a proposed penalty by conducting projects that the agency deems would benefit the environment.
Cahill said the project will take place in Puerto Rico rather than the Virgin Islands because of logistical and operational advantages of doing the work there.
He said that Texaco Caribbean has equipment and personnel in Puerto Rico, adding that if the company did assessments in the Virgin Islands, it would have to spend money to house its workers and bring in equipment. He said that money could better be spent on environmental concerns.
"We want to get the biggest bang for the buck," Cahill said.
The Puerto Rico sites were not previously owned or operated by Texaco Caribbean and the company is not responsible for cleaning up any contamination found at the sites.
Under the agreement, Texaco Caribbean must complete the work in 18 months.
The final assessment will determine the redevelopment potential of the sites.
Cahill said that other V.I. gas stations are also in violation, but the EPA hasn't resolved those issues.
"And we're keeping an eye open down there," he said, referring to the territory.
He said that gas stations are required to have double-lined tanks to prevent fuel from leaking out, adding that tanks have a life expectancy of 18 to 22 years.
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