Nassau County settles 48 environmental violations with EPA

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Nassau County has reached a settlement in a civil action addressing its failure to comply with federal underground storage tank regulations and an Environmental Protection Agency administrative order at 48 of its facilities, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York reported this week.

The consent judgment requires Nassau to fully comply with the UST regulations by installing and operating release detection equipment as well as overfill and spill prevention equipment, upgrade certain USTs and close certain USTs.

The settlement also requires Nassau to install and operate a centralized monitoring system, which will enable Nassau to centrally monitor its USTs so that it can promptly detect and respond to any leaks or spills across its facilities. Nassau County will also be required to pay a civil penalty of $427,500.

Seth D. DuCharme, acting United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Peter D. Lopez, regional administrator of the EPA’s Region 2, said Wednesday that the county had violated the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, passed in 1976 to protect the health and safety of the community and the environment from the potential hazards of waste disposal of petroleum products.

When the tanks are not properly safeguarded, they can endanger the health of the public and the environment by leaking petroleum or hazardous substances into the groundwater, contaminating soil, and potentially triggering fires or explosions.

“Prior to the present lawsuit, the EPA filed an administrative complaint against Nassau alleging that the county repeatedly failed to comply with UST safety requirements at 33 facilities between 2008 and 2010,” a statement from the Eastern District read. “The EPA and Nassau reached a settlement of these claims in a September 2012 administrative Consent Agreement and Final Order (CA/FO). However, Nassau failed to complete the injunctive work requirements in the CA/FO, leading to this judicial action.”

The district added that after entering into the consent agreement and final order, from 2012 to 2017, Nassau continued to violate the UST regulations.

“Specifically, [the county] did not: (i) conduct pipe tightness testing at 12 facilities, (ii) upgrade or close a steel UST at one facility, (iii) add secondary containment (or permanently close) the hazardous substance USTs at two facilities, (iv) install release detection equipment for the USTs at 17 facilities, (v) install release detection equipment for the USTs at 11 emergency generator facilities, (vi) install overfill prevention equipment for the USTs at 12 facilities and (vii) permanently close a UST that had been temporarily closed,” the district said.

“The United States is pleased to announce this settlement with Nassau County that will help protect the health and safety of county residents and our groundwater, which may be jeopardized when underground storage tanks are not properly monitored,” DuCharme said. “The settlement enforces RCRA’s underground storage tank regulations at Nassau’s facilities, which are critical to mitigate the risk of spills and leaks. This Office will vigorously enforce RCRA against parties who illegally operate underground storage tanks and compromise the safety of our community.”

“Nassau County and the EPA have worked out an agreement that will help ensure that underground storage tanks will be properly monitored and regulated to protect human health and the environment,” Lopez said. “The judicial settlement requires the county to take multiple steps including implementing a centralized monitoring system. This judicial action settles the County’s non-compliance with a prior administrative settlement. Nassau County has cooperated with EPA and is now taking action to protect the integrity of the aquifer that provides drinking water to the county’s residents.”

The lawsuit and consent judgment were filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, in Central Islip, New York. Following a 30-day public comment period, the United States will review any comments and, if appropriate, request the district court to enter and approve the consent judgment.

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