Hot Asphalt Spill Leads to $650,00 in Fines

SEATTLE (January 6, 2022) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that Gardner-Gibson, Inc. has paid a $650,000 penalty to resolve violations of the Clean Water Act related to the release of 60,000 gallons of hot, liquid asphalt from its Gardner-Fields, Inc. facility in Tacoma.

On February 8, 2015, employees at the asphalt shingles and coating materials facility were transferring hot asphalt from rail cars to a storage tank when a connector separated from the tank. Hot asphalt escaped the facility's secondary containment through an open valve and flowed into the Lincoln Avenue Ditch, which flows into the Blair Waterway in Commencement Bay.

The asphalt spill stopped about 800 feet from Blair Waterway. Four ducks were contaminated with the asphalt and were captured, cleaned, and released.

EPA cited the company for the release of petroleum products and for significant violations of the Clean Water Act's Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasures requirements discovered during follow-up inspections at the facility.

SPCC requirements are intended to prevent discharges of oil from non-transportation-related onshore facilities and to facilitate responses if discharges occur. The requirements apply to all facilities where a potential spill could reach waters of the United States and that maintain above-ground oil storage capacity of greater than 1,320 gallons of oil or total below-ground storage capacity of greater than 42,000 gallons of oil. When EPA inspected the facility, total storage capacity was 4,234,275 gallons.

Some of the most significant SPCC violations the agency found were

failure to maintain appropriate secondary containment in the event of a spill;
failure to determine and carry out appropriate inspections of various aboveground storage tanks;
failure to identify appropriate qualifications for personnel performing tank integrity testing; and
failure to prepare and submit a Facility Response Plan to EPA after the spill.

"This facility failed to comply with spill prevention and containment requirements and ended up with a mess -- and a stiff penalty," said Ed Kowalski, director of EPA Region 10's Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division. "But they and the environment dodged a bullet here - with the capacity to store over 4 million gallons of petroleum products it could have been much worse.

"Compliance with the spill response requirements of the Clean Water Act is critical to the environment, and to the facilities required to obey them."

The $650,000 penalty was deposited into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, a fund used by federal agencies to respond to discharges of oil and hazardous substances.

[View the news release on the EPA website]

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