- Police Beat
- The Forecaster
SOUTH PORTLAND — Maine Department of Environmental Protection officials promised to work with the city to monitor air quality after residents aired concerns about a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that charges Global Partners LP with violating the Clean Air Act.
Gerald Reid, head of the DEP, spoke to a crowd of almost 100 people at a City Council workshop Tuesday on the federal lawsuit and proposed consent decree with Global, which was filed March 25 in Portland.
The EPA alleges Global violated its license by emitting more volatile organic compounds than allowed at its Fore River facility on Clark Road. Under the proposed settlement with the EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice, Global will take steps to help limit emissions of VOCs from heated tanks in South Portland that store asphalt and residual No. 6 fuel oil.
Global will also install mist eliminator systems on the tanks to address local air impacts, and invest at least $150,000 in a project to encourage the replacement or upgrades of wood stoves in the area. The company will pay a $40,000 penalty to settle charges by EPA’s New England office that it violated provisions of the Clean Air Act.
The stored asphalt and No. 6 heavy fuel oil has the potential to emit more than its limit of less than 50 tons of VOCs allowed under Global’s license. As of April 16, city councilors said the EPA has not been able to provide further information regarding the allegations or clarify the amount of VOCs being emitted by Global.
Based on the most recent data provided to DEP, Global did not exceed allowable emissions in its most recent, 2017 review. Reid noted that the data is self-reported, which he called “a necessary evil” when regulatory agencies don’t have any other option.
The Massachusetts-based petroleum storage company denies the accusations and has promised to work with the community as the process moves forward.
“There’s also a compliance and inspection system in place, where people are going out and visiting these facilities and doing some truth-checking. We have two inspectors in that area,” Reid said.
While he said the DEP would help South Portland develop an air quality monitoring program, Reid also had concerns about the DEP being the sole funder and developer on the project.
“I’ll be the first one to tell you that DEP has been on a starvation diet for the past eight years, so we’re doing the best we can,” he said. “ut resources are really strained.”
Jane Gilbert, an expert on air quality licensing who oversees the DEP’s emissions licensing program, told councilors the EPA uses different testing methodology in comparison to DEP, so officials from the state agency are reviewing why emissions data contradict each another.
The city has hired attorneys Paul Driscoll and Adrian Kendall, from Norman Hanson DeTroy in Portland, to analyze the lawsuit and work to present a city response to the consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice by May 1.
More than 20 residents spoke at the workshop about how VOCs could adversely affect vulnerable populations in the community, including elderly individuals, children, and people with autoimmune disorders and asthma.
According to the EPA’s website, VOCs can have short- and long-term negative health effects, with concentrations up to 10 times higher indoors than outdoors. Adverse health effects may include headaches, nausea, eye irritation, dizziness, kidney damage, and, in some cases, various types of cancer.
“I have an auto-immune disease, and of course, as we get older, health issues come about. I’m very, very concerned about it,” said Michael Moffet, who lives on Ridgeland Avenue.
Some residents stated it is “irresponsible and naive” for the DEP to rely on businesses to conduct their own testing, condemning how long it took for the city to be notified of Global’s violations in the first place.
Many also expressed dissatisfaction with how well the proposed consent decree would properly address the issue, calling for a 90-day extension to hear further comment by those affected. Councilors and residents said the consent decree should address other issues at Global, too, such as the condition of its pollution control systems.
If the court approves the proposed consent decree, Global will have 30 days to pay $190,00 in penalties and reduce emissions.
Members of the public have until May 1 to comment on the proposed decree, and councilors are planning a vote to approve the formal response next week at their April 23 meeting.
Residents line up at the podium at South Portland City Hall on April 16 to speak about an Environmental Protection Agency lawsuit that charges Global Partners LP with violating the Clean Air Act.