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Only DEP “Red Tape” Prevented an Oily Black Delaware River

Paulsboro Refinery and DEP Should Face Some Tough Questions

tanks at Bayway Refinery (Linden, NJ)

tanks at Bayway Refinery (Linden, NJ)

The Delaware River just dodged an oily bullet. Here’s why.

The attack on DEP and environmental regulations as “job killing” and “red tape” is led in NJ by the Christie Administration, but several Democrats in leadership of the party share those views.

Ironically, in the Paulsboro refinery spill and Sunoco pollution cases, those views are shared by Senate President Sweeney and Assemblyman Burzichelli, in whose district the those oil refineries are located.

As expected, the local press coverage of the Paulsboro refinery spill basically just printed the DEP press release, again failed to ask tough questions, and whitewashed the whole episode.

So, I thought I’d provide some information regarding the NJ State program that regulates the storage of oil and petroleum products to enable some tough questions.

Based on this information, the refinery and DEP should be asked a number of questions about the enforcement of the Paulsboro Refinery’s Spill Response Plan (see 10 questions below).

That DEP regulatory program – known by the acronym “DPCC” –  is the only thing that prevented an environmental catastrophe from resulting from the oil spill.

Instead of the 6.6 million gallons that spilled running off into the nearby Delaware River, the spill was contained in a diked 12 million gallon capacity “secondary containment” area.

Spill secondary containment areas are mandated by the DEP’s DPCC program – technically known as the Discharge Prevention, Containment and Countermeasures program.

The NJ DPCC State program is more stringent than federal requirements, is strongly opposed by the powerful oil industry, and is a preventative program that was not based on any cost benefit analysis.

It therefore would never have been enacted by the Christie Administration under Executive Order #2 and the Red Tape Initiative.

The DPCC law would never be passed by the current crop of Democratic leaders in the Legislature, for those same reasons.

So, this spill is perfect example of the kind of risks the are being created by the regulatory dismantling now underway at the Christie DEP and the Legislature.

Ten Questions for DEP and Paulsboro Refinery

The context for these questions is the fact that DEP stresses PREVENTION of spills:

With currently available cleanup technology, it is often not possible to recover all, or even most, of the hazardous substance released during a discharge. Therefore, prevention of discharges is a primary goal of these rules. In those cases where a discharge does occur, discharge response and cleanup must be swift and effective, particularly where ESAs are involved. If the substance that is discharged is not contained or recovered, that substance can remain in the environment, causing damage over the long and the short term.

1) when was the facility last inspected – what were the results? What is the facility’s compliance history?

2) was the broken pipe that caused the release structurally sound and in good condition, how old was it, and when was it last maintained;

3) does the secondary containment at the refinery have liners to prevent groundwater contamination? If not, will DEP mandate installation at all existing containment areas?;

4) what are the air monitoring results for EPA regulated “Hazardous Air Pollutants” (HPA’s);

5) what are the health effects for HAP’s ;

6) what are the groundwater monitoring data – are there violations of groundwater quality standards? If so, for what pollutants? Are they being cleaned up?:

7) Has DEP evaluated subsurface gas migration and vapor intrusion into nearby buildings? What are the results?

8 ) How much contaminated soil will DEP require be excavated as part of the spill cleanup?

9) How will storm water runoff to the Delaware River be prevented? How will the cleanup and revised spill containment systems prevent oil and hazardous substances from being washed into the Delaware River by floodwaters, as required by DEP regulations (NJAC 7:1E-2.9); and 1

10) What is DEP proposed enforcement fine and when will that fine be collected?

Background Info

According to DEP:

The Discharge Prevention Program works to forestall the release of hazardous substances and petroleum products to the environment, thereby protecting natural resources and public health before problems occur. The program centers on sound management practices that are considered essential when working with hazardous substances: training employees who handle such materials, periodically inspecting storage tanks, assuring that adequate secondary containment is in place, and developing standard operating procedures for routine operations and maintenance. The program also works to ensure that response plans, trained personnel and emergency equipment are at hand should an incident occur. The Program is often referred to by the acronym “DPCC,” which refers to one of the preparedness documents that major facilities develop under the Program, the Discharge Prevention, Containment and Countermeasure plan.

The current DPCC program operates under regulations adopted by the Corzine Adminsitration. The Paulsboro spill may have been affected by changes made in 2006.

Corzine DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson bowed to oil industry pressure and EXEMPTED EXISTING OIL STORAGE TANKS from requirements to install liners at secondary containment systems. Liners are needed to protect groundwater from spills.

The DEP DPCC rule proposal made this clear::

N.J.A.C. 7:1E-2.6(c)3i through iii exempts existing secondary containment or diversion systems for existing aboveground storage tanks from the requirement that they be made of or lined with impermeable materials, maintained in an impermeable condition. In the past, the Department accepted a statement from the owner or operator that existing secondary containment for an existing tank could protect the groundwater, in accordance with N.J.A.C. 7:1E-2.6(c)3i through iii. Recently, the Department has requested that owners or operators prove that they can protect the groundwater in the case of a worst case leak into a secondary containment system that does not meet the definition of “impermeable.” In several cases, when actual soil permeability measurements are made and the actual depth to groundwater is considered, data submitted to the Department indicated that the groundwater would not be protected by the existing secondary containment system. Therefore, the Department is proposing to amend N.J.A.C. 7:1E-2.6(c)3i to clearly state that the Department may require the owner or operator of the facility to provide proof that an existing secondary containment system has the ability to protect groundwater, including soil permeability testing (a test used to determine how quickly a substance will move through the existing soil), knowledge of depth to groundwater in affected sections of the facility, and information on how long it would take to clean up the contents of the largest tank within the system. This information can be used to directly determine whether the groundwater will be affected or not.

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  1. Dan Finocchi
    February 25th, 2012 at 19:25 | #1

    Bill Wolfe did a lot of good research here.

    Let’s realize this Oil Company, PBF, is not the large owner as previously, Mobil and Valero. However they still need to abide by our New Jersey laws.

    New Jersey isn’t as strict as New York, who does have impervious guidelines. New Jersey is one of the stricter states in requirements.

    PBF should be complimented in keeping the mishap from not being more damaging, let’s not forget that Paulsboro’s water system has been tainted previously by the BP terminal which is where Paulsboro Port now stands and across the street from the Paulsboro Little League and Football Associations.

    PBF is a large area employer and deserves a chance to be judged from its response. I am sure the Patch will keep us all informed

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